REDMOND, Wash.—As phenomenal a search engine as Bing is—and it truly is starting to make incremental inroads into Google’s domination—it’s still fumbling around and making awkward mistakes when it comes to porn. And make no mistake, Microsoft’s Bing is all about the porn.
The latest controversy has to do with adult-related ads—by which we do not mean ads for Viagra—being placed on mainstream pages in a most non-contextual manner.
According to TechCrunch, the problem has to do with “a Microsoft ad unit that scrapes a page for content and then shows relevant Bing queries. The ads normally work fine. But last week Bing started showing an ad unit that contained sexually explicit terms, including at least one that I had never heard of before (the swizzle stick).”
The article—viewable here—includes a screen capture of the offending ad, which in this case would up on WonderHowTo.com, A “how-to” video site that actually contains videos about how to "masturbate a man with the swizzle stick handjob." One must be age-verified to access those videos, though.
Bing says it’s a bug, though they also seem to be simultaneously investigating how it happened and have pulled all ads until they can figure it out.
“We are very cognizant of what we want the Bing brand to stand for, and this is not it,” said Adam Sohn, Microsoft’s senior director of the Online Audience Business Group.
It could be that the adult content available elsewhere on WonderHowTo triggered the Bing ads, which are generated by the search engine, but the snafu is yet another reminder that we are still in the infancy of targeted contextual ad generation. It could be that the promised land of perfect relevancy is an impossible dream.