Two aspects of this story regarding Microsoft’s Bing search engine are of interest. One is the self-imposed double standard: would Microsoft disallow searches on “rude” words for any other place on the planet? The other is the political and ethical precedent it sets: if they self-censor on this, what else will they censor, especially if they are that inclined to cater to Sharia-minded countries? Microsoft does call Bing a “decision engine,” but this is not likely the meaning the ad campaign was going for.
Or, as was the case with Google, will this be papered over as some kind of “bug?”
“Microsoft’s Bing filters ‘rude’ keywords in Arabic countries,” from France 24, March 11:
Microsoft’s search engine “Bing” filters out sexually explicit keywords in Arab countries, the Open Net Initiative (ONI) has claimed in a report.
The American research organisation said in a report published at the beginning of March that out of a hundred words with sexual connotations, 20 were blocked.
The inquiry was carried out in four Arabic countries – Algeria, Libya, Jordan and the UAE – leading the report’s authors to conclude that the filtering applied to “Middle Eastern countries in general”. […]
Click the link to the article if you’re curious about which words were blocked. Some are anatomical, some are bawdy, some are rather innocent: evidently you can’t search on “kiss.”
The blocks only apply when users in Arab countries search on the Arabic version of the “Bing” site.
By navigating to the US version in English, for example, users in Arabic countries can look up “rude” words with impunity.
Microsoft has not clarified whether the filtering was on the initiative of the company itself, or because of requests from Arabic governments.
But the ONI suggested it was highly unlikely the filters were driven by individual Arab countries’ laws.
“It is interesting that Microsoft’s implementation of this type of wholesale social content censorship for the entire ‘Arabian countries’ region is in fact not being practiced by many of the Arab governments,” the report said.
Google as well as other search engines including Yahoo! and Ask.com that are available in the Arab world do not impose any such censorship.