June 2, 2009

EIE President Comments on Microsoft's 'Bing'

Microsoft's New Search Engine Puts Porn in Motion

By Joseph Abrams



Your kids may get a bang out of Bing — and that's not a good thing, Internet safety experts warned on Monday.  Bing, Microsoft's new search engine (www.bing.com), went live in the U.S. this weekend, aiming to challenge and possibly unseat industry titan Google.  But bloggers and Internet safety experts quickly discovered that one of Bing's "features" is that it takes only a few clicks for anyone — of any age — to view explicit pornographic videos without even leaving the search engine.  In its bid to beat Google, Microsoft has unveiled a slate of convenient features for Bing, including an "autoplay" tool that lets users preview videos simply by hovering a mouse over them.  That asset may become a liability, because users can get a taste of porn videos on Bing instead of having to go to a smutty Web site — an innovation other search engines have yet to offer.

Technology blogger Loic Le Meur noticed the issue early Monday after testing video search on Bing.  What he found was a cornucopia of pornography that he said transformed the search engine into its very own pornographic Web site.  "You are now on a porn site without leaving Bing. Amazing," Le Meur wrote on his blog.  Bing, like other major search engines, lets users set filtering preferences at one of three levels — strict, moderate or simply off.

Online safety advocates argue that search engines need to do much more to cut off underage access to pornography — because the filters can be circumvented easily with just one click.  "It's a no-brainer for any kid," said Donna Rice Hughes, president and chairwoman of Enough Is Enough®, a group that works to help parents protect children from online porn.  "From the standpoint of the new state-of-the-art search engine, [the video preview] is a really neat thing of course," Hughes said. "The flipside of that is that you've got an abundance of pornography out there."

Content-filtering companies have also been reviewing Bing — and have found the same gaping problems.  With adult-content filters turned off, "Bing.com does at this point allow users to watch pornographic videos without ever leaving the site," said Forrest Collier, CEO of InternetSafety.com.  Parental filtering software such as SafeEyes, which is produced by Collier's company, can block any explicit or unwanted search results, he said.  CyberPatrol, another major safe software manufacturer, confirmed to FOXNews.com that its early tests had successfully blocked all illicit media during searches with Bing.

Hughes, the director of Enough Is Enough®, said Microsoft and other search engines "need to make their filtered searches much more prominent and have an option for password protection" that parents could use to prevent kids from switching the controls around.  Microsoft said in a statement that it was up to users to turn off the filters, and provided instructions on how to toggle the settings on its blog.  "By default, Bing filters out explicit image and video results. Consumers must take action to turn off the Safe Search filter in their settings in order for explicit image or video content to appear in Bing's results," the statement read.

Other major search engines like Yahoo and Google come up with similar video and image results when electronic filters are turned off — but don't provide automatic playing of videos within the search-results page.

The abundance of pornography is something child health experts say is simply a fact of life.  "Kids can access pornography on the Internet no matter what the search engine is," Dr. David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, told FOXNews.com.  Walsh said it's particularly important that kids be protected from the worst excesses of pornography during their formative years.

"Because they're at the very age when they are developing their whole attitudes about sex and sexuality," he said, it's bad for them to be visiting porn sites, "where sex is basically a commodity to be bought and sold and where women are treated like objects. The attitudes that they're going to pick up there are not the attitudes we want them to have for life."

Protecting kids from pornography or other potentially harmful materials must ultimately rest with parents, Walsh added.  "I don't know that search engines can be programmed to do the job that parents need to," he said.

Original Article: HERE.