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6/8/2009
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Bing Porn Draws Flak

Microsoft is taking heat for search engine tool that displays full-motion adult content.

Microsoft Bing might win fans among porno lovers, but the fact that the new search engine displays raunchy videos in full motion is drawing heat from groups and countries that find such material offensive. The feature could also land Microsoft in legal hot water over possible copyright violations and create headaches for employers.

Unlike Google and most other search engines, Bing's video search feature lets users watch snippets of the videos they find without having to leave the Bing site. That applies equally to videos about, say, gardening and those displaying content that would make denizens of old Times Square blush.

Microsoft doesn't appear to blocking any video content on Bing, regardless of its nature -- and the feature bypasses some corporate security tools that typically filter pornography and other material deemed inappropriate for the workplace.

Microsoft formally launched Bing last week -- and its failure to block racy video content is already drawing fire. Bing's video search capabilities have been hobbled in China and certain Muslim countries, where the display of explicit sexual content would be considered highly offensive.

The fact that Bing displays video content without redirecting users to the original source could expose Microsoft to copyright suits. Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo have been sued in the past by publishers of adult-themed products over image search results that display still photos from their products.

Bing's ability to bypass corporate filters also could create headaches for employers. A former IBM employee sued Big Blue in 2006 after he was fired for logging on to sex chat rooms while at work. The worker, James Pacenza, sued IBM, claiming he was wrongfully dismissed because he suffers from sexual addiction.

Microsoft is looking to make a bigger splash in the search market -- a fact that may have some skeptics wondering whether Bing's virtual porn theater is intentional.

Through the first nine months of 2008 the company committed more than $1.5 billion to acquiring search, or search-driven businesses -- including a $1.3 billion buyout of enterprise specialists Fast Search & Transfer.

Redmond is hoping to catch up to Google in search market share. But the company has its work cut out for it. Google presently controls about 64% of the U.S. search market, while Microsoft owns only about 8% of the market, according to researchers at ComScore. Yahoo, the No. 2 player, holds 21% of the market.

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