The Controversial Words Your iPhone Won’t Autocorrect

The Controversial Words Your iPhone Won’t Autocorrect

Autocorrect can be a beautiful thing. It can also be a pain in the arse. Either way, there’s apparently a “kill list” that Apple’s built-in iOS autocorrect function simply ignores, according to a Daily Beast report.

Said list includes dozens of sensitive words, like “abortion”, “rape”, “marijuana”, “Aryan”, “drunken” and “bullet” that when misspelled by just one character are not autocorrected. The method by which the Daily Beast tested this theory seems exhaustive as it created two separate programs to run a series of simulations:

To find the list of excluded words, we came up with two different misspellings for roughly 250,000 words — including all of the ones in the internal dictionary that ships with its desktop operating system — and wrote an iOS program that would input each misspelled variant into an iOS simulator (a computer program that mimics the behaviour of a factory-condition iPhone). We then made a separate program that simulated a user selecting from the menu of suggested corrections and recorded the results. After narrowing down the list to roughly 20,000 words that looked problematic, we tested 12 more different misspelling combinations. Words that did not offer an accurate correction any of the 14 times were added to our list of banned words.

Over 14,000 words that were spelled correctly were not autocorrected when “only slightly misspelled”. But those seem to have been limited to super technical or rarely used words, like “semptress” and “nephrotoxin”.

What’s even more interesting is not that there is a purported “kill list” but that a lot of the words that iOS chooses not to autocorrect in iOS 6 were, in some instances, accurately suggested in iOS 3.1.3 when autocorrect was rolled out.

While the Daily Beast’s methodology seems sound, there are a couple caveats. You could, of course, add words to your custom dictionary, should you need to use such foul-mouthed or sensitive language for whatever reason. And it remains unclear if iOS will eventually learn that when you type “abortiom” you really mean ‘abortion’. Still, it’s a weird kind of censorship, or at the very least puritanism, one that’s by this point all too familiar. [Daily Beast]