iTunes Search Results For Explicit Words: Disney And More

Here are some search results that we found in the iOS App Store that made Apple change their search algorithm.

Update: After Forbes' Kashmir Hill contacted Apple's PR department about this issue, Apple promptly reacted and fixed this issue.

We were doing some data analysis using Sensor Tower data on the iPhone App search keywords, trying to figure out what keywords have the most amount of Apps show up when users search for them on the iPhone (the top 3 are "games", "iPad" and "kids").

Strangely, some things popped up that should not have been there. We're talking about offensive and taboo words. Apparently, Apple's search algorithm thinks that there are 6,917 relevant Apps for the keyword "incest". And the third result is the official WATCH Disney Channel App:

WATCH Disney Channel App #3 for search for incest

And no, it's not auto-correction. The closest spelling legitimate word "invest" only returns 346 possible results. Try it yourself. Intrigued, we went further and looked for other explicit words that show up a lot of searches.

"Beastiality" returns 8,866 results on the iPhone, with popular Apps like Racing Penguin, Flying Free and Movies by Flixster showing on top of the results. Surely none of these developers actually put these keywords in their keyword field, much less have gotten past Apple's somewhat stringent review process. Yet show up they do:

Racing Penguin, Flying Free App #1 for search for beastiality

These two words were some of the less offensive ones that we've found. There are other more offensive words that return a lot of search results, and we're willing to bet that the vast majority of those App Developers did not put those words in their keywords.

Why could this be? There is no intelligent word correction going on that's auto-correcting these bad words into innocent but popular words. All the close and plausible corrections substantially less keywords show up in the search results.

In fact, these two keywords beat out other extremely popular keywords such as "facebook", "shopping", "adventure", "tv" and "racing" in the number of results. According to our data, they are in the top .1 percentile in the number of Apps that show up. Is this some sort of twisted joke by a long gone Apple engineer?

Sensor Tower's platform is an enterprise-level offering. Interested in learning more?

Alex Malafeev

Written by: Alex Malafeev, Founder at Sensor Tower

Date: October 2012

Never miss an insight. Get quality content sent to your inbox every week.

Thank you!

By clicking "Subscribe" above, I agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge the Privacy Policy.