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Google Says It Will Stop Android Phones From Suggesting "My Face" When Users Type "Sit On"

"Sit on my face" refers to a sexual act.

Posted on July 27, 2018, at 7:57 p.m. ET

Some people are reporting that when they type "sit on" while texting on their Android phones, the devices suggest "my face and" may be the next thing they want to type. The phrase prediction comes from the operating system's autocomplete feature, which recommends words or phrases based on what you type. While there are more than 1,000 words banned from Android's prediction algorithm, including "coitus" and "intercourse," the phrase "sit on my face" — which refers to a sexual act — is not suppressed.

After reaching Google for comment, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that a fix to remove the phrase is coming: "We’ve started rolling out a fix for this prediction behavior in Gboard so that users will no longer see this suggestion."

The spokesperson added, "Gboard is designed to avoid such predictions in its generic models, but human language is complex, and as with any sort of system that filters sensitive phrases, sometimes inappropriate suggestions make it through into the machine learning models. When we learn of an inappropriate suggestion we work quickly to remove it."

I was SMSing our babysitter with the default Android SMS app; I typed "Hey! Are you free to sit" and autocomplete came up with "on my face." Needless to say, I have never entered that string into my Android device. (This is not a joke)

In a BuzzFeed News test, after typing "Hey, are you free to sit on," two Google Pixel devices suggested "my face and," while a Samsung Galaxy S9 phone did not. However, if "sit" is typed (rather than "sit on"), autocomplete does not suggest "my face and."

BuzzFeed News

After "my face and," Android autocomplete suggested the following words: "then... we... can... talk... about... it... later..."

Meanwhile, iOS devices do not suggest "my face" after typing "sit on."

BuzzFeed News

Google said that its keyboard, called Gboard, uses both a general language model for everyone and a personalized algorithm that learns from its users' typing history.

Android users can remove specific suggested words by tapping the word and dragging it to the trash icon. In Keyboard settings (at the top of the keyboard, tap > then More > the Settings gear icon > Text Correction), users can also turn off the suggestion strip, block offensive words, and opt out of personalized suggestions.

The idea behind Google's keyboard suggestions and swipe input features is to speed up typing on mobile devices, which is 35% slower than it is on a physical keyboard.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.