Microsoft’s Bing is search engine may be around since almost nine years, but it still seems that the company doesn’t pay enough attention to it. Many Internet users probably still have a hard time taking the Google alternative seriously, but the truth is that Bing can actually provide some deeply problematic search results.
Today, a TechCrunch-commissioned report explained that Bing has a very serious child pornagraphy problem. AntiToxin, commissioned to research an online safety report for TechCrunch, found out that searching for terms like “porn kids” can easily lead users to child pornography content, but it gets worse. There seems to be a serious problem with Bing suggestions as well, as when searching for terms like “Omegle Kids” (Omegle is a anonymous chat app popular with teens), Bing will suggest terms like “Omegle Kids Girls 13” that can also lead to child pornography.
Microsoft’s Chief Vice President Of Bing & AI Products Jordi Ribas provided this statement about AntiToxin’s research:
“Clearly these results were unacceptable under our standards and policies and we appreciate TechCrunch making us aware. 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.”
This should be a serious wake-up call for Microsoft, especially since this is not the first time that Bing is being accused of providing some very troubling search results. Back in October, a post on How-to Geek article explained that it was very easy to get Bing to make suggestions including racist opinions, conspiracy theories, and child pornography. Worse, that research showed that turning on SafeSearch blocked the porn in suggestions and search results, but not racist suggestions (the echCrunch-commissioned report from AntiToxin was made with Safesearch disabled).
Speaking with TechCrunch, a Microsoft spokesperson explained that the company uses a combination of AI and human moderators to improve Bing search results. “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,” the spokesperson said.
Microsoft has often been touting its AI expertise in recent years, but this epic failure clearly shows that AI is clearly not ready to replace the human eye and mind. As one of the biggest tech companies worldwide, Microsoft has the responsability to make Bing a search engine anyone can use without risking to be exposed to child pornography or other illegal content. This is definitely a pretty bad way to start the year, but fixing Bing should really one of Microsoft's top priorities in 2019.