If you use Bing’s image search, you’re going to see the worst filth you can imagine. Bing suggests racist terms and shows horrifying images. Bing will even suggest you search for exploited children if you have SafeSearch disabled.
We contacted Microsoft for comment, and Jeff Jones, Senior Director at Microsoft, gave us the following statement:
“We take matters of offensive content very seriously and continue to enhance our systems to identify and prevent such content from appearing as a suggested search. As soon as we become aware of an issue, we take action to address it.”
Update: Since publication, Microsoft has been working on cleaning up the offensive Bing suggestions that we mentioned. Based on our research, there are still many other offensive suggestions that have not yet been fixed, including a few that we’ve mentioned below. We are unsure if they are simply fixing the offensive items we pointed out, or if they are improving the algorithm.
Note: The screenshots here show what we saw when we wrote this piece testing the US version of Bing Image search in an Incognito private browsing session, but Bing’s results shift over time. Google didn’t have any of these problems, according to our tests. This is a Bing problem, not just a search engine problem. The same problem affects Bing’s video search.
First, Bing Gets Super Racist
Search for “jews” on Bing Images and Bing suggests you search for “Evil Jew.” The top results also include a meme that appears to celebrate dead Jewish people.
All of this appears even when Bing’s SafeSearch option is enabled, as it is by default. SafeSearch is designed to “help keep adult content out of your search results,” according to Microsoft.
Clicking this suggested search unleashes a torrent of racist, antisemitic content, with more suggested searches like “Jewish People Are Evil,” “The Evil Jewish Race,” and “Why Are Jews so Evil.”
We all know this garbage exists on the web, but Bing shouldn’t be leading people to it with their search suggestions.
Type in “muslims are” and Bing will suggest that they are evil or terrorists, or simply suggest that they are stupid.
Search for “black people are” and Bing will suggest that black people are ugly, stupid, racist, and even savages.
You can keep going like this, clicking each suggested search and seeing worse and worse recommendations. For example, clicking “Black People Are Stupid” leads to “Black People Are Useless” and “Why Are Black People so Dumb.” Clicking “Black People Are Useless” leads to “Black People Suck” and “I Hate Black People.”
Bing Pushes Conspiracies, Too
Bing’s image search vomits up all kinds of garbage, even when searching for individuals. This problem also extends to Bing’s video search.
Search for “Michelle Obama” on Bing’s video search and two of the top suggested searches are “Michelle Obama Transgender Proof” and “Michelle Obama is a Man.” Click that, and you’ll see conspiracy videos.
Is this the top thing Microsoft wants people to see when they search for Michelle Obama?
SafeSearch Blocks The Porn, But Not the Racism
The disturbing pornography suggestions and images aren’t shown unless you disable SafeSearch. While Microsoft says SafeSearch will keep adult content out of your search results, SafeSearch is clearly filtering pornography and not racism.
SafeSearch is enabled by default, which makes Bing’s search results look more respectable at first glance.
However, it’s easy for anyone—even children—to disable SafeSearch. All someone has to do is click the “SafeSearch” option at the top right corner of the search results and select “Off.” That’s it!
A corporate network could be configured to enforce SafeSearch, and Microsoft even provides complex instructions for enforcing SafeSearch on a single PC. But, on nearly any device, anyone can disable SafeSearch with two clicks.
Worst of All, Bing Suggests Searching for Images of Underage Children
A reader wrote to tell us that a typo when searching Bing for “grill” gives you really sketchy porn. The problem then becomes much worse, with Bing suggesting you search for images of underage children.
When searching for “gril,” the suggestions at the top of the page recommend you search for some disturbing things, including “Cute Girl Young 16.”
If you click that, it suggests “Cute Girl Young 12”, “Cute Girl Young 10,” and “Little Girl Modelling Provocatively.”
The results are filled with pornography of young-looking models. We hope they’re all 18 years of age or older, but who can say?
Bing leads you down a path from a simple typo to 16-year-old girls to 10-year-old girls, and it’s disgusting.
Other examples are easy to find, too. If you search for “cheese pizza,” which is 4chan slang for child pornography, Bing suggests “Cheese Pizza Girls.”
Bing’s Image Search Results Are Twisted, Too
While we’re focusing on the search suggestions here, the actual images that appear are also disturbing.
Some of these search results contain bath-time photos of naked underage children. Those photos would normally be fine, but when they’re mixed in with images of hardcore adult pornography, the resulting search results are alarming.
Even when searching Bing Images for “girl,” we saw a suggestion to search for “drunk girls” and at least one image of bestiality.
When searching for “donkey,” Bing suggests you search for “Donkey Show Graphic,” which leads to results full of bestiality images. Possession of bestiality pornography is illegal in Oregon, where I live. That means Bing is leading me to illegal pornography.
Again: Bing’s search results are weird and twisted. Bing has a much bigger, more profound problem than just suggested searches, although those suggestions make the problem much worse.
We’ve heard Bing is the search engine of choice for pornography, but it shouldn’t be leading its users to more and more extreme, disturbing, and potentially illegal pornography.
Microsoft Needs to Moderate Its Platforms
Microsoft needs to moderate Bing better. Microsoft has previously created platforms, unleashed them on the world, and ignored them while they turned bad
We’ve seen this happen over and over. Microsoft once unleashed a chatbot named Tay on Twitter. This chatbot quickly turned into a Nazi and declared “Hitler was right I hate the jews” after it learned from other social media users. Microsoft had to pull it offline.
We previously exposed Windows 8’s Store, which became a cesspool of scam apps after Microsoft launched Windows 8 and seemed to stop moderating the app submissions. Microsoft has been paying more attention to Windows 10’s Store after this problem was exposed.
This problem affects every company that launches a platform. Google has given up on Google+, but Google+ is still up and running. So ISIS migrated to Google+ after being banned from Twitter and Facebook. It took months for anyone to even notice until The Hill did. Now Google is closing Google+ after they discovered a significant privacy bug.
In 2013, The Guardian found a clothing company named Solid Gold Bomb was found selling reading “Keep Calm and Rape a Lot” shirts on Amazon. An algorithm had generated these shirts and Amazon had to remove them manually.
Microsoft can’t just turn a platform loose on the world and ignore it. Companies like Microsoft and Google have a responsibility to moderate their platforms and keep the horror at bay.
Suggestions Have a History of Serious Problems
Of course, there’s no team of people at Microsoft choosing these suggestions. Bing automatically suggests searches based on other people’s searches. That means many Bing Images users are searching for antisemitism, racism, child pornography, and bestiality. Just thinking about it makes you feel dirty.
Other companies have struggled with this, too. In 2016, The Guardian noticed you could type “are jews” into Google, and it would suggest “are jews evil.” Google stomped these bad suggestions out after they were reported, but the problem resurfaced. In 2018, Wired reported that typing “Hitler is” into Google led to “Hitler is my hero.” Google had to fix these problems after they were pointed out, too.
Even Apple’s Siri suggested websites pushed conspiracy websites and other fake news, as Buzzfeed News reported. Apple had to fix Siri. Everyone is just running around and putting out fires as computers learn bad things from bad people.
Now it’s Microsoft’s turn. Microsoft has a responsibility to clean up Bing. A major search engine (and especially one that is increasingly becoming a harder-to-turn-off default built into Windows 10) shouldn’t be suggesting its users search for racist garbage and images of underage children.