RealTime IT News

Microsoft Bing Quick Fix to Block Porn

Microsoft has published instructions for a workaround that will make it harder for corporate users of its new Bing search engine to access porn from their work PCs.

Additionally, according to a posting on the Bing Community blog, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) plans to "formalize" the solution in "the next couple of months," though it does not explain precisely what that means.

Meanwhile, however, consumers who would like to lock down searches may have a longer wait for similar tools, the post, by Mike Nichols, general manager of Microsoft Bing, said.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduced the company's latest assault on the search market -- formerly codenamed Kumo but now officially named Bing -- last week at the D: All Things Digital Conference in Carlsbad, Calif.

Bing got off to a good start, even debuting early. The site went live for users in many countries early Monday morning, although it was not officially scheduled to be live until Wednesday.

From there, however, the road ahead got a little bumpy. Among the glitches, Bing made itself the default search engine for users of Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), a long outdated version of the browser but one still used by some 17 percent of all surfers on the Web. Microsoft discovered the problem was on the server side, not on the client PCs and quickly fixed the problem.

Making it too easy

At the same time, however, Internet filtering tool vendor InternetSafety.com criticized the combination of two Bing features as making users' access to porn easier.

One feature, called Smart Motion Previews, actually predates Bing and was a feature of Live Search for more than a year. What it does is enables small video clips similar to movie trailers (typically less than a minute or so long) to automatically playback when the user hovers the mouse cursor over a screen image. The Bing preview function generates these clips automatically as well.

The other feature is what Microsoft calls SafeSearch content control technology. "If you set SafeSearch to 'strict,' you will not see any explicit text, image or video content," Nichols post continued.

Normally, that feature is set to default to not return any sexually explicit images. However, the user can easily reset the feature's permissions to turn off SafeSearch. All that SafeSearch asks is that the user click a box to attest that he or she is over 18.

"You could watch hours of porn within Bing without going to a porn site," Stanley Holditch, a marketing manager at InternetSafety.com, told InternetNews.com on Tuesday.

Microsoft responded Thursday by posting a scripting example that corporate systems managers can code into every outgoing Bing search query -- it will enforce Bing's highest restrictions, called "strict," which blocks any explicit content from being delivered to the user's PC.

"In the next couple of months we will formalize this work so that a broader range of partners, applications and tools can take advantage of this functionality more easily," Nichols' post said.

What about consumers?

"In addition, we are looking for more ways to give consumers more control to ensure that Bing gives them a great search experience," he concluded.

(West Coast Bureau Chief David Needle contributed to this report.)