Searches using 'sex' or 'sexual' are taboo on Bing in India

But searches related to choosing a child's gender selection are OK, activists complain

Web searches using the terms "sex" or "sexual" from India on Microsoft's new search engine Bing receive a message that the search may return sexually explicit content and advises users to change search terms.

But if the user enters terms such as "sex selection" or "choose child sex," the search engine returns a large number of links relating to the sexual selection of children before birth.

"This is a violation of the law, as search engines are providing access to information that leads to female infanticide," said Sabu Mathew George, an activist campaigning for tighter regulation of information available on the Internet on sex selection.

In India, the advertisement of products and techniques to aid in sex selection of unborn children is an offense under the country's "The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act."

Google and other search companies pulled down sex selection advertisements in India in 2008, after George petitioned India's Supreme Court that some companies were promoting sex selection techniques and products through advertising and links on their search engines.

But searches on engines from Google and now Bing still return information on sex selection, George said.

Microsoft's spokeswoman in India was not immediately available for comment.

Bing has been criticized in some countries including the U.S. because adult content, including pornographic videos, can be easily viewed. Bing has an "autoplay" feature that lets users preview videos by hovering the cursor over a search result.

By refusing to return results when users in India search for the term "sex," Bing is placing itself on the safe side of Indian law.

The country's Information Technology Act considers it an offense for anyone who "publishes or transmits or causes to be published" online pornographic material. Those found in violation of the law face a fine and imprisonment.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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