San Francisco, Jan 11 : Pedophiles searching for child pornography on Microsoft Bing get keyword suggestions that lead to more criminal content on the web, according to a latest TechCrunch investigation, coming on the heel of an earlier one that found similar issues with Facebook-owned WhatsApp.
Bing's 'Similar Images' feature can suggest additional illegal child abuse imagery to those who search for related content, said the study -- carried out by Israeli online safety start-up AntiToxin on behalf of TechCrunch -- on Thursday.
The study came after another TechCrunch report last month claimed that Facebook-owned WhatsApp was being used by traders of child pornography to distribute disturbing content without much of a hurdle.
The concerns raised in the latest study was shared with Microsoft following which, the software giant said it assigned an engineering team that fixed the issues.
"Clearly these results were unacceptable under our standards and policies and we appreciate TechCrunch making us aware.
"We acted immediately to remove them, but we also want to prevent any other similar violations in the future. We're focused on learning from this so we can make any other improvements needed," Jordi Ribas, Microsoft's Chief Vice President of Bing and AI Products, was quoted as saying.
Microsoft said it was working on blocking any similar queries as well problematic related search suggestions and similar images.
However, AntiToxin -- that is closely supervised by legal counsel -- found that while some search terms from its report are now banned or cleaned up, others still surface illegal content.
Microsoft also claimed that it was changing its Bing flagging options to make it easier for people to report "child sexual abuse."
Similar searches on Google did not produce as clearly illegal imagery or as much concerning content as did Bing, the research showed.
The latest study was commissioned after the investigation last month revealed that in the absence of adequate human moderators, child pornographic material was slipping by the automated systems of WhatsApp that offers end-to-end encryption for its users.
AntiToxin also found that several people from India were part of groups that circulate child porn-related content.
WhatsApp last week said it blocked and removed over 1,30,000 such accounts to clamp down on child pornography on its platform.
"WhatsApp has a zero-tolerance policy around child sexual abuse. We deploy our most advanced technology, including artificial intelligence to scan profile photos and actively ban accounts suspected of sharing this vile content.
"We also respond to law enforcement requests in India and around the world. Sadly, because both app stores and communications services are being misused to spread abusive content, technology companies must work together to stop it," a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement.