Microsoft’s Bing search engine shows child pornography images as well as making suggestions for other disturbing search phrases, an investigation has found.
Researchers discovered that illegal photos of under-age boys and girls were displayed on the search engine’s image results using simple search terms with the SafeSearch filter switched off.
Search terms for children and Omegle, a free site for chatting to strangers, not only provided inappropriate photos of minors but also presented associated search suggestions.
Among the related searches Bing offered were “kids live video chat”, “omegle girls only kids” and “how to find kids on omegle”, while clicking on photos also provided similar image suggestions.
Online safety company AntiToxin Technologies was commissioned by TechCrunch to carry out the investigation, under supervision of legal counsel and authorities.
Microsoft said it has now removed the offending content.
“Clearly these results were unacceptable under our standards and policies, and we appreciate TechCrunch making us aware,” said Jordi Ribas, corporate vice president for Bing & AI products.
“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.”
Child protection charity NSPCC wants the Government to set up an independent regulator to prevent child abuse images being distributed online.
“It is shocking that as law enforcement agencies are working hard to stop child abuse images being shared online, these images are readily appearing in Bing search results, with the search engine’s algorithms even recommending more,” said Andy Burrows, the NSPCC’s associate head of child safety online.
“The NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign has been calling on Government to create an independent regulator to force tech companies to protect children and stop such material being shared, and to make them accountable when they fail to do so.”
In 2015, Microsoft launched a free PhotoDNA technology which is able to help identify and remove images that exploit children, used by companies including Facebook and Twitter.
Two years before, the company also became the first search engine to introduce pop-up warnings to anyone who attempted to search for child abuse images.