Recent happenings involving Microsoft’s Bing search engine have reintroduced the discourse of whether major tech companies need external regulation to manage its content pool and the news it gives exposure to especially when they touch on controversial issues like racism or other extremist topics.
Journalist Chris Hoffman discovered Bing suggested racist topics when he looked up words such as ‘Jews.’ ‘Muslims’ and ‘black people.’
Microsoft says it has ‘taken action’ to address this concern.
Unsubstantiated and in many cases, already widely debunked conspiracy theories also ranked high on the Bing search engine.
Mr. Hoffman said Microsoft had to do better at moderating its search system.
In his investigation, Mr. Hoffman looked up racially-themed terms and found that the majority of suggestions for further searches that accompanied results pointed people to racist sites or images.
Racist memes and images were also returned for many of the words he tried.
‘We all know this garbage exists on the web, but Bing shouldn’t be leading people to it with their search suggestions,’ wrote Mr. Hoffman.
It is believed that the suggestions for further searches connected to these terms have emerged from a combination of user activity and concerted action by far-right groups to skew responses.
Mr. Hoffman also found ‘disgusting’ results when searching for images of young girls with Bing’s safety filters turned off.
The racial examples are similar to those found in 2016 by Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr, when she used the Google search engine to look up facts about the Holocaust.
Ms. Cadwalladr found that results for ‘did the Holocaust happen?’ were dominated by pages denying it took place that had been created by white supremacist site Stormfront.
In response to Mr. Hoffman’s findings, Jeff Jones, a senior director at Microsoft, said: ‘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,’ he added.
The BBC which originally reported this finding checked to see what the results for similar searches would be. It found fewer responses that pointed people towards overtly racist sites or images.
Sabinews also checked to see if similar searches would present charged responses but noticed a dearth of offensive results too.
Bing is second to the Google Search engine which holds 63% of market share according to analyst firm Statista. It holds 24% of the search engine market share globally.