Microsoft’s new search (decision) engine decides too much in Germany with very blatant and in my opinion stupid censorship despite no obvious reason for it. Of course Google doesn’t have these problems in Germany, so with Google in Germany you may actually search for a new pantyhose with Bing it’s impossible (this link only shows the message if accessed from Germany):
The text says (in German):
The search pantyhose may return sexually explicit content.
To get results, change your search terms.
This censorship was already in use sometime on the MSN Live Search before. So does Microsoft really think this kind of censorship makes sense and will lead to more use than Google in Germany sometime in the future?
The problem I see is that the restrictions seem to be based only on specific words, so it is very easy to circumvent it. Sometimes it is even sufficient just to add an additional word. The most simple solution would be to change the country in the top right corner on the Bing website. Even if you are in Germany – just by switching the country to e.g. the United States there are no restrictions anymore whatsoever.
This kind of censorship also happens in other countries like India.
I have compiled a list of terms here that shows some of the words that are blocked and their corresponding translation. Ambiguity of words does not seem to matter at Bing. Very explicit terms have been excluded – anyways viewer discretion is advised:
It is amazing that even such terms like “handcuffs” and “pantyhose” are blocked by Bing.
Doublethink? Advertisers Are Allowed To Use These Terms
Interestingly there does not seem to be such a restrictions for advertisers. Although the ads are not shown if the search has been blocked by Bing searching for related words shows ads containing words that you can’t even search for. There are even some more explicit terms in the ads than I have used in the sample above.
Do advertisers know that these words have been blocked? If I would be a website owner trying to sell pantyhose I would like to have my ad shown when someone searches for the word.
Good For Microsoft?
I highly doubt that this kind of censorship will be beneficial for Microsoft in Germany given the current discussions on internet censorship in Germany. But it shows what may be used in the future anyways not only on Bing.com.
If you want to protect your child from potentially harmful content on the internet (in a way that cannot be circumvented by two clicks as with Bing currently) there are other ways like talking with your child about it or in the worst case install a filter software on your PC. But if someone is trying to find websites on syringes (blocked in Germany) on Bing please let him find results.
My personal conclusion: I do not like censorship therefore I do not like Bing. I’ll stick with Google although it is being censored as well but not to such a degree based on single results not on search queries.