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Bing and Yahoo were suggesting offensive search terms

Microsoft has since pulled the auto-complete phrases.
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Edward Smith/Empics Entertainment

Tech companies continue to have problems with clearly offensive search terms, and Microsoft is no exception to the rule. How-To Geek discovered that Bing (and by extension, our sibling brand Yahoo) was suggesting offensive searches even if you had SafeSearch turned on. If you searched for "Jews" or "black people are," for example, you'd see racist auto-complete recommendations. Even an innocuous video search for "Michelle Obama" would turn up bigoted suggestions, while image searches offered queries for underage girls and similarly disgusting (not to mention illegal) results.

Microsoft has since pulled the offensive terms. In a statement, Senior Director Jeff Jones said the company took offensive content "very seriously" and that team members continued to "enhance our systems" to prevent that kind of material from showing up in suggestions. Microsoft will "take action" whenever it's aware of a problem, Jones said.

The incident underscores the challenges internet giants continue to face when trying to keep their standard searches relatively clean. While it's relatively easy to remove horrific suggestions after someone points them out, proactively removing them is another matter -- it's why Google has been using a combination of AI and human moderation to tweak its searches. It could be a long time before that kind of prevention is commonplace across search engines.

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