Browser makes web porn more accessible

June 3, 2009 5:25:55 PM PDT
A new internet tool is bringing new options for computer users and new worries for parents. "Bing" is Microsoft's version of a search engine. It is powerful and easy to use, too easy perhaps, for parents worried about porn.

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Word is spreading quickly throughout the cyberworld about Bing. If your kids have not heard about it, they will soon. That is because it is easy to change the settings to allow x-rated videos to start playing instantly. Parents should learn what Bing is, and learn how they can block it if they so choose.

"Well, Bing may be the ultimate smut sampler," CNET editor-at-large Brian Cooley told ABC7.

Cooley does not mince words about Microsoft's new search engine. One of its acclaimed features is the way it displays a search for videos. When you hover the mouse over a video thumbnail the video plays immediately.

This is not a problem for browers searching for "Hannah Montana." But, a search for "Pamela Anderson" yields x-rated videos which play when the cursor is held over them.

"Whenever you make a search engine easier to use to find something, you make it easier to use to find things you don't want kids to get," said Cooley.

Microsoft points out that it filters out adult content by default. However, internet experts showed ABC7 it is easy to turn those filters off. A pop-up menu says a user has to be 18 to see explicit content. Just click on "agree" and it is done.

Pcmag.com technology commentator Sebastian Rupley spotted another security issue.

"If a child does type a porn-related term in and hover the mouse and watch the porn at the Bing site, there will be no citation in the browser history that a porn site was visited," he explained.

ABC7 News consulted with experts to find out what parents should do to prevent this from happening. They suggested monitoring kids' internet use, using filtering software and, if using the Vista operating system, using its built-in parental controls.

However, kids can be good at working around those restrictions. They could just use a friend's computer instead. Anne Zehren is President of Commonsensemedia.org, a San Francisco non-profit that focuses on making the internet safe for children.

"Parents really need to extend their parenting in the real world to the online world and that means getting smart about technology," she said. "It is extra homework for parents, but at the end of the day, kids need their parents to be as smart as they are."

Microsoft says it has heard from consumers that they want more control over content on Bing.

A Microsoft spokesperson released the following statement:
"By default, Bing filters out explicit image and video results. Consumers must take action to turn off the Safe Search filter in their settings in order for explicit image or video content to appear in Bing's results.

We think our current search safety settings are solid but at Microsoft we are always working on pushing this stuff farther. We also are listening to customers, and some have told us they want more control and they want it now.

In particular some folks who manage corporate networks have asked for tools now to enforce SafeSearch settings at the network level. So for right now, we wanted to let people know that you can add "adlt=strict" to the end of a query and no matter what the settings are for that session, it will return results as if safe search was set to strict. The query would look like this: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=adulttermgoeshere&adlt=strict (yes it is case sensitive).

This short term work-around should work with lots of popular firewall and safety products, as well as for larger, managed network environments. 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. In addition, we are looking for more ways to give consumers more control to ensure that Bing gives them a great search experience."

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