The Bing search engine – which is still around ten years after Microsoft created it, despite having only five per cent market share – gets a lot of flak for not being as useful as Google’s search engine. But a recent study found that it’s actually even worse at delivering information than was previously known.
A Stanford Cyber Policy Center analysis published this week surmised that Bing’s search engine result pages are chock-full of bogus information – namely, an alarming amount of content promoting conspiracy theories and white-supremacist viewpoints.
Stanford researchers Daniel Bush and Alex Zaheer ran 13 different searches on Google and Bing, then compared results. The comparison showed that Bing served up much more bullshit than Google.
“Bing returns disinformation and misinformation at a significantly higher rate than Google does,” the report reads. “Across the top 50 results for 12 separate queries (a total of 600 results), Bing returned at least 125 sources of disinformation and misinformation, while Google returned 13.”
Of that misinformation, much of it was harmful and racist. “In general, Bing directs users to conspiracy-related content, even if they aren’t explicitly looking for it,” the report reads, pointing out that searches for “comet ping pong” brings up information about Pizzagate, “fluoride” leads to information claiming the government is poisoning us, and “sandy hook shooting” serves sources propagating the false notion that the tragedy was staged. The researchers found that some of the conspiracy theories floated in the top search results were from white-supremacist sites like Judas Watch and Stormfront.
Screenshot: Stanford Cyber Policy Center (github)
The study also claims that Bing gives Russian propaganda sites like RT and Sputnik more prominent placement in searches than Google does. “More important, they show up in Bing’s top results for queries related to known Russian disinformation campaigns – eight times across the top 50 results for four separate queries (200 results), compared to one time for Google,” the report reads.
The study claims that when the researchers did Bing searches for three terms associated with Russian disinformation efforts – “mh17,” “novichok,” and “skripal” – the search engine showed eight links from Sputnik and RT in the top 50 results, while the same test in Google only brought up one RT link.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a Gizmodo request for comment.
Bush and Zaheer concluded, “the alarming frequency with which Bing shows users bad information should lead Microsoft to re-evaluate the way it ranks information sources.”
The main takeaway is that you can continue to not use Bing.
Featured image: Screenshot: Bing