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The Apple 'Kill List': What Your iPhone Doesn’t Want You to Type

The Apple 'Kill List': What Your iPhone Doesn’t Want You to Type

Your iPhone may be making more decisions about what you use than you might expect.

According to a Daily Beast analysis, iPhones running Apple’s latest software will not suggest corrections for even slight misspellings of such hot-button words as "abortion,” "rape,” “ammo,” and “bullet.” For example, if a user types "abortiom" with an "m" instead of an "n," the software won't suggest a correction, as it would with nearly 150,000 other words(Many modern spell-check and predictive text engines understand that the “n” is located next to “m” on a standard keyboard, so replacing it with its neighbor is the low-hanging fruit of the correction world.)

Provocative words aren’t the only ones iPhone software won’t correct. Our analysis found over 14,000 words that are recognized as words when spelled accurately, but that won’t be corrected even when they are only slightly misspelled. However, the vast majority of these words are technical or very rarely used words: “nephrotoxin,” “sempstress,” “sheepshank,” or “Aesopian,” to name a few. 

But among this list as well are more frequently used (and sensitive) words such as “abortion,” “abort,” “rape,” “bullet,” “ammo,” “drunken,” “drunkard,” “abduct,” “arouse,” “Aryan,” “murder,” and “virginity.” 

We often look to technology to make our lives easier—to suggest restaurants, say, or to improve things as simple as our typing. But as more and more of our speech passes through mobile devices, how often is software coming between us and the words we want to use? Or rather, when does our software quietly choose not to help us? And who draws the line? 

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment for this article.

Here’s how their software works: when you misspell a word on an iOS device—iPhones, iPads, etc.—it will be underlined in red. Double-tap the garbled word, and a menu will appear in which you can pick from a few suggestions; hopefully the word you intended to write will be there. This fix works for the vast majority of words—but a few, like those mentioned above, won’t have any suggestions at all, even if you were mistaken by only one character.

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