Bing Thinks ‘Lesbian’ Is a Dirty Word

Update 07/09/13: Please see Microsoft’s Response

Bing Thinks 'Lesbian' Is a Dirty Word

Sarah and I were chatting this morning about parenting books, and we wondered what resources were out there for lesbian moms. So I pulled out my trusty Lumia, hit the search key, and typed in “Lesbian mom blogs”. Imagine my surprise when Bing informed me that “Your current Bing SafeSearch filters out results that might return adult content.” I had no idea same-sex moms were so risqué! So I set out to test the Bing SafeSearch filter (on moderate, FYI), and the results were shocking.

Read on to find out more!

(NOTE: All the images in this post were from searches done with the default “moderate” SafeSearch setting.)

Bing Thinks 'Lesbian' Is a Dirty Word

In case you were wondering, the problematic keyword was “lesbian”, as just typing that into Bing returns the same chastising message about adult content. The word “gay” is totally fine, even though one of the top links is for, which references sex right in the web description. Also acceptable? “Breasts”, even though the second link is for a porn site. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is also acceptable, as are “Drag queen”, “transgender” and the medical term for the female anatomy. Finally, “slash fiction” is acceptable, so stories about same-sex fictional couples are fine, as long as they aren’t lesbians. Weirdest of all: the slang word “dyke” is acceptable, even though that’s often used in a pejorative context, as is “faggot”, which is a very loaded term with many negative connotations. Also, references to drugs — like bong, cocaine, and pot — are all fine, as are searches for fake IDs.

Bing Thinks 'Lesbian' Is a Dirty Word

Unacceptable in the “moderate” SafeSearch setting are: homosexual, transsexual, slang for the female anatomy, the medical term for the male anatomy, fetish, and porn, plus any search term containing the word lesbian — even if it’s “resources for gay and lesbian youth” for example. Oddly, certain terms do slip past the filter, as searching for “Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network” does return the website for GLSEN.

Bing Thinks 'Lesbian' Is a Dirty Word

My point is that the filter for Bing search is horrifically broken.

Pornographic and offensive sites slip through with ease, while legitimate sites are blocked by an arbitrary flagging of words that can be considered totally innocent. It is embarrassing and offensive that in 2013 words like “faggot” are ok, but “lesbian” is verboten. Heck, in 1999 I used to troll AOL keywords for gay and lesbian resources, and their filters managed to find my answers without returning pornography. It’s insane that 14 years later in the same situation, I would have been out of luck with Bing search.

If Microsoft wants Bing to be a serious player in search, they need to take a long, hard look at their “SafeSearch” algorithm and fix it ASAP. Their current returned results come across as incompetence at best and at worst, homophobia; either way it needs to change!

Update 07/09/13Please see Microsoft’s Response

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?

1 Comment on "Bing Thinks ‘Lesbian’ Is a Dirty Word"

  1. Even more astounding is that while ‘lesbian’ is blocked, it is right in the definition of ‘dyke’! At a time when Bing is trying to get some traction, Microsoft once again finds a way to force me to NOT recommend them, regardless of my feelings about Google!

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