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iCloud spam filter to blame for auto-deletion of emails containing pornographic phrase

Apple on Thursday addressed a perceived issue with its iCloud email service, saying that strict spam filters are to blame for the automatic deletion of correspondence containing the phrase "barely legal teen."

Users recently reported the situation to Macworld, noting that instead of relegating the possibly pornographic emails to a spam folder, iCloud is "pre-filtering" or automatically deleting the messages with no notification to sender or recipient.

AppleInsider was able to confirm the activity, which affects emails containing "barely legal teen" in the subject line, body, attached PDF document and attached zipped PDF file. Outgoing messages from iCloud accounts to non-iCloud addresses were allowed to pass, as were replies to emails sent from Apple's service.

Apple responded, saying, "Occasionally, automated spam filters may incorrectly block legitimate email. If the customer feels that a legitimate message is blocked, we encourage customers to report it to AppleCare.”

As part of the iCloud's Terms and Conditions, the company notes that it can pre-screen or otherwise modify content at any time:

You acknowledge that Apple is not responsible or liable in any way for any Content provided by others and has no duty to pre-screen such Content. However, Apple reserves the right at all times to determine whether Content is appropriate and in compliance with this Agreement, and may pre-screen, move, refuse, modify and/or remove Content at any time, without prior notice and in its sole discretion, if such Content is found to be in violation of this Agreement or is otherwise objectionable.

iCloud's so-called "silent email filtering" raises questions as to the reliability of Apple's service as an inadvertent phrase flagged by the spam blocking system could cause a user to never receive a message. The situation is concerning given both iCloud users and senders have no way of knowing an email was not received as the messages are simply deleted.

Other services, like Google's Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Microsoft's Outlook, are not known to have such measures in place and funnel spam into appropriately tagged folders.