I don't add these web sites to the restricted list. Is the iPhone sending every page I visit to Apple? Random surfing will encounter a random restricted site. In this case it renders this app broken because the 'allow' link doesn't work. Setting is currently set to limit adult content which allows me to use a white list and blacklist. I never added this site to blacklist. I only blacklist 3 sites.

How does iOS know that a website is restricted? Does it send it every page I visit to Apple?

How does iOS know if a website is restricted? Does it send it every page I visit to Apple?

See this is the BS I'm talking about:

enter image description here

iOS 10.1.1

  • Do you use any content blockers?
    – user61744
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:20
  • 1
    Have you checked your Restrictions in Settings?
    – fsb
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:21
  • No I don't use a content blocker. No I did not add this website to my restricted list as mentioned in the question. Even news websites show up as restricted when I have never visited them before.
    – Chloe
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:54
  • 1
    I wasn't referring to the specific website, I was speaking of Restrictions in general. Please include in your question a screenshot of your Restrictions in Settings, that might help us figure out what the issue is.
    – fsb
    Dec 14, 2016 at 21:35
  • An answer requires more technical details. How does it filter? How does it know? Is it magic? Is it telepathic? Or does it use keywords? Regular expressions? Is it violating my privacy and sending domains, sites, pages to a central server?
    – Chloe
    Dec 22, 2017 at 20:27

4 Answers 4


Settings → Restrictions → Websites and select your preferred option for Allowed Websites.


  • That is way too restrictive. I would have to pre-enter the domain of every website that I wish to visit. It is currently set to limit adult content which allows me to use a white list and blacklist.
    – Chloe
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:57
  • 1
    @Chloe I don't understand your question then. If you wish to visit all websites, select All Websites. To Limit Adult Content by "apply[ing] a filter that tries to prevent users from viewing websites with adult content in Safari", choose that option, and add any websites you wish to be able to visit to the whitelist.
    – grg
    Dec 14, 2016 at 21:02
  • I wish to use a blacklist. My question appears quite clear. It's in the title. I don't know how to rephrase it for non-English speakers. Basically my question is "How does Apple/iOS know if a web site is restricted?" I'm sorry, this answer doesn't really answer my question. Does the phone keep a system blacklist of every possible web page? Is that how it knows? Please give me more technical details.
    – Chloe
    Dec 22, 2017 at 20:17
  • And my question was "how does it work", not "how can I limit the web sites I visit."
    – Chloe
    Jan 10, 2019 at 21:36

As I guess you know, iOS limits websites based on the options you've selected in Settings > General > Restrictions > Websites.

As @grgarside shows with the screenshot in their answer, with Restrictions you can either:

  • Allow all websites
  • Limit Adult Content
  • Allow specific websites only

By using these settings you can also set whitelists etc.

Based on your question, I assume you've limited adult content and every so often you'll try accessing a site that iOS has restricted.

With the Limit Adult Content filter enabled, there are several layers of filtering applied by iOS to web browsing. Apple has achieved this via a number of methods:

  • Applying an automatic filter layer to prevent direct access to many adult sites
  • Enabling the various search engine based filtering options to prevent inappropriate terms from being queried independently
  • Adopting the likes of Google SafeSearch and similar from Bing, Yahoo, and others
  • The prevention of web searches for a wide variety of terms.

In your question you offered a single example via the Yanflex screenshot. However, since Yanflex is only a 3rd party method of accessing Cragslist, the likelihood in this specific case is that iOS has restricted something from the Craigslist servers. This is not surprising, as specific individual pages on Craigslist regularly appear in block lists because of their content.

The only way around this is when you encounter a specific page that is blocked that you don't want blocked, you will need to specifically allow it by going to Settings > General > Restrictions > Websites > Limit Adult Content and adding it to the Always Allow list. That is assuming you have enabled Limit Adult Content to begin with.

  • Does my phone send every web page I visit to Apple, Google, Bing, Yahoo, or others so it decides to block it? What are the keywords that it blocks?
    – Chloe
    Dec 14, 2016 at 22:25
  • 1
    No. If you'd like to prove this to yourself, do this simple test. First of all enable Limit Adult Content in your Restrictions. Then launch Safari and directly enter a URL into the address bar that you know is adult in nature and you will see it is blocked immediately with a message saying “You cannot browse this page at "URL" because it is restricted”. This happens instantly without the need to send every web page you visit to either Apple, Google, Bing or Yahoo. Similarly, performing adult centric web searches are blocked directly, with no search results being returned.
    – Monomeeth
    Dec 14, 2016 at 22:37
  • So you are saying that the name of every single adult web site is stored in my phone so it knows what to block? How do you explain blocking of this site?
    – Chloe
    Dec 15, 2016 at 2:47
  • No, I'm not. Notice how it's labelled Limit Adult Content, because iOS website restrictions are not 100% perfect at blocking all inappropriate content. It's also not designed to block only pornographic sites, but as many sites as possible relating to adult themed material (that's why Apple often gets accused of making its filter too strong). This filtering is very effective, but not perfect. I have not personally worked on iOS itself, but I imagine part of the filtering process involves running a check of sites being visited against a master list that is regularly updated.
    – Monomeeth
    Dec 15, 2016 at 3:00
  • As far as I can tell, I've answered your questions: 1. How does iOS know if a website is restricted? 2. Does it send every page I visit to Apple? In terms of the issue you're now trying to cover, that's really a separate issue. I notice you edited your question so I did a test on my iPhone 6s running iOS 10.2 and enabled Limit Adult Content in restrictions. I had no problems visiting apple.stackexchange.com or yanflex.com (although I don't know the exact page on yanflex you were trying to visit. This implies you have something specific to your scenario that is affecting your usage.
    – Monomeeth
    Dec 15, 2016 at 3:20

In iOS 11 this has changed as the restrictions page has been removed.

Updated answer:

Go to Settings-> Screen time -> Turn it on if necessary-> Content & Privacy restrictions -> Content Restrictions-> Web Content.



You can then choose between Limit adult websites which automatically blocks some websites, you can add to the list or allowed websites only which blocks all websites not in the allowed list.

  • How does it know whether to block a website? How does it decide to block apple.stackexchange.com with 'Limit Adult Websites'? Can you give several examples of how it decides whether to block or not?
    – Chloe
    Jan 9, 2019 at 16:46

I had the same issue with Safari blocking Google searches at random despite not having any filters on. When I went to Settings/ Screen Time/ Turn Off Screen Time the problem stopped. I believe I had previously signed into Screen Time under 'This is My Child's Phone' by accident. I didn't have any issues with Safari after I signed back into Screen Time under 'This is My Phone'. Hope this helps someone else.

  • I don't have Screen Time.
    – Chloe
    Jan 11, 2019 at 15:26

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