Bing, Explicit Content and Safe Searching For Schools

Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

Bing, Explicit Content and Safe Searching For Schools

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One of the scary things about the Internet for schools and for parents is that explicit content is very easy to find – even by accident. Most web browsers have “safe search” settings but young people are savvy and it is not unheard of for them to change their settings. Content that comes indirectly, such as via a search engine, can occasionally sneak by filters which increases the problem. The new search engine decision engine from Microsoft called Bing has taken steps to help with this problem.

The Bing blog has some information about this in a post called Safe Search Update. The key paragraphs are below:

First, potentially explicit images and video content will now be coming from a separate single domain, explicit.bing.net. This is invisible to the end customer, but allows for filtering of that content by domain which makes it much easier for customers at all levels to block this content regardless of what the SafeSearch settings might be. This makes it much easier for filtering software to block unwanted content if SafeSearch has been turned off.

In addition, we will begin returning source url information in the query string for images and video content so that companies who already use this method of filtering will be able to catch explicit content on Bing along with everything else they are already blocking for their customers. An example of such a query string is:

http://ts2.explicit.bing.net/images/thumbnail.aspx?q=974382499649&id=12ae77a7fed979b0502840bedacd2552&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.explicitsite.com%2fexplicit-picturegoeshere.jpg

So if your school (or home or company) filters out explicit.bing.net then no matter what setting the web browser has you will not see explicit content in Bing results. This should be a big help to a lot of schools. It was done in direct response to feedback from companies, schools, and others concerned with making sure explicit content can be filtered out when that action is appropriate.

  • Alfred, I have to be contrary with you here. If as you suggest "(a) school (or home or company) filters out explicit.bing.net" then they are filtering out what ever Microsoft deems as explicit and this scares me. There is no way to know what is deemed explicit, no way to know what is filtered out and no way to adjust those settings - Does a site of medical images get filtered out? What about art? A site on Breast Cancer? As a search engine, Bing should filter out illegal content and nothing more. Or, heaven forbid they use 15 year old technology, implement an automated version of something like PICS [ http://www.w3.org/PICS/ ]. Schools and individuals should be free to make the decision as to what to filter and when. Otherwise, rather than as you suggest, "no matter what setting the web browser has you will not see explicit content in Bing results." no matter what, you will not have any idea what you are NOT seeing in Bing results.

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