Updated with comment from Microsoft below.
Like Google, Yahoo, and most other search engines, Bing offers to autocomplete queries in their search box. While Google calls this feature “autocomplete,” Bing calls it “search suggestions.”
Well, it looks like Bing is suggesting that you search for some pretty disturbing stuff.
I was pointed in the right direction thanks to a reddit post. “Why don’t you have a seat over there, Bing,” it read, referencing Dateline NBC host Chris Hansen’s famous line on the show To Catch a Predator.
Ok, I’ll bite. Here’s what Bing’s search suggestions suggest:
Say what? It appears that Bing is suggesting that I search for “sex games for kids,” and “sex games for kids in bed” and “sex games online for children.” Hm, ok then.
Digging a little deeper with the questionable queries produced similar results. For instance, here’s what Bing suggests when you search for “sex kids”:
And here’s a Bing search for “sex child…”:
Even worse, here are Bing’s suggestions for what I’m sure is one of their (and any search engine’s) most popular single-word queries, “sex”:
Also, changing your SafeSearch settings to strict does nothing to eliminate these results. When you think about it, it would probably look even worse for Bing if it did, because that would indicate that Bing felt that a search suggestion like “sex games for kids in bed” was an appropriate suggestion for a moderate level SafeSearch.
“Still seeing inappropriate content? SafeSearch uses advanced technology to filter adult content, but it won’t catch everything. If SafeSearch is set to Strict or Moderate and you’re seeing adult content, tell us about it so we can filter it in the future,” says Bing.
But this isn’t a SafeSearch problem, this is a search suggestions problem. You can turn search suggestions off in your settings, but by default they are on. That means that the average person that pulls up bing.com and searches for “sex g…” sees these questionable suggestions.
Now, I guess the next big question is whether or not Bing has a responsibility to filter out these search suggestions.
On one hand you could make the argument that Bing doesn’t have to manually edit which search suggestions it gives for particular queries. The suggestions are clearly based upon popular and recent searches from the Bing community – and if that’s what they’re searching for then hey – let it be.
On the other hand, Google limits its autocomplete results. Here’s what you’ll see when you search “sex games” on Google:
And here’s what you see when you search “sex kid”:
As you know, Google also censors other questionable searches. They won’t give you suggestions for sexual terms like “boobs” or “pussy,” and they won’t even display curse words like “fuck” or “shit” in autocomplete results.
They also censor any search that has to do with the illegal downloading of copyright protected content. For instance, “game of thrones torrent” won’t autocomplete.
Over on Bing, it’s a totally different story:
Bing doesn’t really filter any of the types of searches that Google does. Last year, we pointed out that Bing was suggesting painless ways to kill yourself while Google was displaying the suicide prevention hotline.So, if they’re going with a true hands-off approach to any sort of search suggestion censoring, what’s different about queries about sex games for kids?
Well, it’s the “c’mon, dude” argument I guess. As in, Bing…c’mon dude. It doesn’t help that instead of “autocomplete,” Bing’s version of the technology is called “search suggestions.” So, when you think about it, Bing is suggesting that you search for “sex kids movies” and “sex games with kids in bed.”
I’ve reached out to Bing for comment and will update when I hear back.
As you know, Facebook partners with Bing for their search results. And you can find the same questionable suggestions inside Graph Search results:
UPDATE 2: A Microsoft spokesperson has given me this:
“We’re reviewing the guidelines for search suggestions related to this type of query.”
Well have to see if anything changes.