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Bing shies away from gay-as-day search results in Arab countries

Rude words get silent treatment too, claims report

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Microsoft's Bing search engine blocks out "sexually explicit" results and gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender queries in Arab countries, claimed the Open Net Initiative late last week.

The group carried out a test in January of Bing as intended for Middle Eastern sensibilities and found that it filtered Arabic and English words related to saucy material available online.

A message popped up that read: "Your country or region requires a strict Bing SafeSearch setting, which filters out results that might return adult content," claimed the ONS when its researchers typed in a query for something a bit racy or homosexual via the Arab version of Bing.

It claimed that Microsoft's search engine filtered out Arabic keywords such as "sex", "porn", "intercourse", "breast", "nude", "whore" and "sadism".

The Arab version of Bing also turned its nose up at "homosexuality", "gay" and "lesbian" keywords. Bing also hides English keywords that "could yield sexually explicit websites", claimed the ONI.

Filtered queries on that list included “sex”, “fuck”, “penis”, “sodomy”, “homo”, “sexual”, “sexy”, “clitoris” and “anal”, but surprisingly not “vagina”, which is presumably a more palatable term for a lady's garden in Microsoft's vision of the Arab world.

"Bing does not offer users of the 'Arabian countries' version the option to toggle SafeSearch on/off. This option is available for Bing instances tailored to some other countries," said the ONI.

According to the report Bing doesn't force search settings based on IP addresses, making it easier for the surfer to bypass filtering by choosing versions of the search engine intended for more freewheelin' countries.

Despite that, the ONI unsurprisingly criticised Microsoft's half-arsed targeted behaviour.

"Microsoft has signalled its willingness to be at the forefront in protecting freedom of expression around the world. It is difficult to reconcile this position with Bing's current filtering standards," said the ONI.

The software vendor did not immediately get back to us with comment about this story at time of writing. ®

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