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Microsoft’s Bing filters ‘rude’ keywords in Arabic countries

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-03-12

Bing, Microsoft’s search rival to global giant Google, filters sexually explicit words in versions used across the Arabic world, an online research organisation has found.

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, at least 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".
Some of the words the ONI found were filtered by Bing
The report claims that “Bing” filters out Arabic keywords including “penis” and “sadism”.
“Vagina” and “masochism”, however, are not affected.
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.
'Safe search'
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 that are available in the Arab world do not impose any such censorship.

Date created : 2010-03-11