A recent study has found that 92% of parental control apps over-block websites, with the most commonly blocked content being those related to LGBTQ identities and sexual health.
The study, from Top10VPN, examined some of the most popular apps available on Google Play, as well as how they handle attempted access to certain websites popular in either the U.S. or U.K.
Some apps, it found, blocked kids from accessing LGBTQ resource websites like Stonewall, the Trevor Project, and It Gets Better, deeming them “adult content.”
What’s more, the study found that most of the apps notify parents when their kids attempt to access a blocked site, which could lead to dangerous situations in which kids are unknowingly outed to their families.
One app, Kaspersky Safekids, even blocked kids from using the search term “LGBTQ” on YouTube. Kaspersky Safekids also blocked searches of “homosexuality,” “safe sex,” “sexual abuse help,” “abortion,” “condom,” and “birth control pill.”
Despite blocking LGBTQ websites and search terms, some of the apps still permitted kids to access sites like OnlyFans, which actually does feature adult content, and allowed for search terms like “buy gun.”
And in only 10% of Top10VPN‘s tests, the parental control apps blocked websites known for the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories.
“The over-censorship of LGBTQ+ content is a well-documented feature of private tech companies’ attempts to filter ‘safe’ content, whether this is done by parental control apps or by platforms themselves,” said Siyang Wei, Policy Coordinator at the U.K.’s LGBT Foundation.
“This not only discriminates against LGBTQ+ content, but prevents young people from accessing information, services, and communities that could be vital to their wellbeing.”
Last year, anthropologist Mary L. Gray warned that artificial intelligence will “always fail LGBTQ people,” along with other marginalized groups. Gray said it will forever be up to human interference to ensure AI is not discriminatory.
“When AI whittles us down to one identity,” Gray said, “We can look at that and say no. I’m more than that.”