Research conducted by online safety firm AntiToxin Technology revealed that Microsoft’s Bing search engine not only that does little to prevent child pornography images from showing up in search results, but it also offers alternative keywords to make it easier to find them.
Commissioned by TechCrunch, the report revealed worrying facts about the efforts that Microsoft makes to block such content on its search engine.
The investigation was performed between December 30 and January 7 with SafeSearch turned off. On several occasions, Bing returned content showcasing child abuse, while at the same time displaying related terms that can be used for additional searches.
While these associated keywords are generated automatically, they were displayed both in the search bar and on the results page, making it painfully easy for the searcher to come across more images of child abuse.
Microsoft says it blocked the queries
Microsoft acknowledged the issue and said in a statement that it immediately removed the results, promising further efforts to block child pornography content.
“We acted immediately to remove them, but we also want to prevent any other similar violations in the future. We’re focused on learning from this so we can make any other improvements needed,” Microsoft chief vice president of Bing and AI products, Jordi Ribas, was quoted as saying by the cited source.
However, as it turns out, Microsoft hasn’t actually removed all the content that the report highlighted, and in fact, some of the queries remained available.
“We index everything, as does Google, and we do the best job we can of screening it. We use a combination of PhotoDNA and human moderation but that doesn’t get us to perfect every time. We’re committed to getting better all the time,” Microsoft said when asked to explain how the filtering works.
The search queries that AntiToxin found to return child pornography on Bing did not link to any abusive images on Google, according to the report.