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False Flag: Social media erupts over Apple's predictive text Palestine blunder

An example of the Palestinian flag showing as a predictive text suggestion for Jerusalem in iMessage

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Apple's predictive text system has prompted claims of antisemitism against the iPhone maker, by serving the Palestinian flag after users type in Jerusalem.

Apple's latest software update to iOS 17, bringing it to iOS 17.4.1, has seemingly introduced a change to the autocorrect system. A change that some social media users are using to criticize the company with allegations of antisemitism.

For some users of iOS, typing in Jerusalem brings up the Palestinian flag as an optional emoji to add in iMessage. The problem isn't limited to the predictive text system, as searching for the city under the emoji search comes up with the same result.

While AppleInsider was able to confirm the flag appears, it also doesn't appear for all users. For example, while it appears when using iOS under UK English dictionaries, it doesn't appear when used under US English.

Apple also isn't the only company to have allowed the mistake to occur, as the Jewish Chronicle explains that Google's keyboard for Android also shows the flag when the capital of Israel is typed out.

Due to Apple's extensive use of machine learning and analyzing texts from millions of users, it's possible that the prediction system made the connection between the text string and the emoji on its own.

Social fury

Since the issue's discovery, Apple has since become the target of social media posts, condemning the company for a mistake probably caused more from machine learning than from malice.

Prominent campaigner and UK TV personality Rachel Riley took to X to call out Apple on the issue. She points out that there are many other capital cities that don't offer national flags.

"Showing double standards with respect to Israel is a form of antisemitism, which is itself a form of racism against Jewish people," Riley complains. She then goes on to demand Apple Support and CEO Tim Cook explain "whether this is an intentional act by your company or whether you have no control over rogue programmers."

Apple has told us that the substitution is a bug and will be patched in the next iOS update. No timetable for the fix was given.

The new social media storm is the latest complaint Apple has to deal with in connection to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

After employees urged leadership to do more for the Palestinian community on April 2, a protest was held on April 6 at the Lincoln Park Apple Store. The protest was held due to managerial policies banning employees from wearing pro-Palestine accessories, which led to the firing of one member of staff.

Update April 10, 2:20 PM Updated with remarks from Apple.