Smartphone user demands action from Apple over disturbing gifs
Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston , CTV Vancouver
Published Monday, June 26, 2017 6:00AM PDT
Apple is cracking down on gif search terms to battle offensive images, but a Victoria man claims it’s not enough after he found disturbing snippets of video with seemingly innocuous words.
Devin Perfect texts back and forth with his family in Ontario and often adds gif videos to his messages.
After searching the work “kill” to reflect his frustration with a deer problem in his yard, he land on a black and white image of a person holding a sign that said “Maybe suicide is the answer.”
“I thought about Amanda Todd,” said Perfect. “I’m thinking ‘who is going to use this and why is this here?’”
Todd is the cyberbullied B.C. teen who posted video with flash cards reflecting her pain. She later committed suicide.
“There are millions and millions of gifs on the internet right now,” explained tech guru Andy Baryer, who demonstrated to CTV’s Ross McLaughlin just how easy it is to create a gif in a few simple steps.
Apple populates its gif images from the internet using the search engine Bing, but was supposed to have blocked offensive material.
“That’s the thing is you need to have a gatekeeper to basically approve what is appropriate or not," said Baryer.
McLaughlin wanted to see what other offensive images could be lurking out there, so he searched other key words.
The word “burn” brought up an image of what appeared to be a burning baby. But it turned out to be a mechanical doll.
The word “locker” brought up a simulated sex act.
And the search for “answer” brought up what looks like a terrorist beheading. As the video pans down, you realized it’s supposed to be a joke with a man getting his teeth brushed.
“These are really, really bad,” said Baryer.
“That’s disgusting,” replied Perfect, when shown the images.
Jil Amery, who runs the blog Urban Mommies, is also shocked by the images.
“Those can be incredibly traumatic and once you've seen something it can't be unseen," she said.
McLaughlin on Your Side alerted Apple to the images and all were removed. The company also sent us a link for parental controls on gifs and how to report offensive material.
"It's our responsibility to teach our kids not to share this," said Amery.
But Perfect is hoping for a better vetting system.
"You know it's one thing to have somebody go and find an image, it's another thing that it's already there in the package," he said.
Apple says it is trying to scrub its images but the best thing is keep an eye on your kids and if you see something slip through, report it to the company.