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1 Users in the Arab countries2—or, as termed by Microsoft—“Arabian countries”—are prevented from conducting certain search queries in both English and Arabic.
ONI testing reveals that Microsoft filters Arabic and English keywords that could yield sex- or LGBT-related images and content.
All testing was conducted using Bing set to the “Arabian countries” setting.
We tested the search engine using both the Arabic3 and English4 interfaces.
- Bing filters out English keywords that could yield sexually explicit Web sites.
The keywords include “porn,” “sex,” “fuck,” “penis” (but not “vagina”), “sodomy,” “homo,” “sexual,” “sexy,” “clitoris,” and “anal.” - Bing filters out English keywords such as “gay,” “lesbian,” “homosexual,” and “queer” when searching for images, however, using these words to search for Web sites is permitted.
This option is available for Bing instances tailored to some other countries.
- There is no filtering by keywords if a user chooses another country (e.g., United States, Canada) as their location even if they are physically located in an Arab country.It is important to emphasize that de-listing of results was not probed in this research.In-country testing has consistently revealed the following: -Bing filters out Arabic keywords that may return sexually explicit content.That is, although political filtering is widespread in the MENA region, social filtering, including keyword filtering, is not practiced by all countries in MENA.ONI 2007-20-2009 testing and research found no evidence of social content filtering (e.g., sex, nudity, and homosexuality) at the national level in countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Libya.10 On the other hand, Microsoft does not seem to apply IP-geolocation restrictions.- Attempts to use any of the filtered keywords generates a message in Arabic or English (depending on the interface used) which reads, “Your country or region requires a strict Bing Safe Search setting, which filters out results that might return adult content.” - Similarly, searching for images using any of the filtered keywords generates the alert: “The search may return explicit adult content and has been filtered by your Bing Safe Search settings.