Thursday, February 13
"On Tuesday, campaigners at FreeWeibo, a tool that allows uncensored search of Chinese blogs, revealed that Bing returns radically different results in the US for English and simplified Chinese language searches on a series of controversial terms,” reports Dominic Rushe for The Guardian.. Microsoft called it a system error.
Readers commented, one pointing out that searches for specific religions like "Catholic" or "Methodist" on Google produce maps showing the location of the nearest church. But a search for "Islam" or "Judaism" produced no similar map - even though an Islamic center is less than 2 miles south from the search location and the nearest synagogue is 1 mile north. A quick search on Bing and Google confirmed the commenter's observation. Christians and others also complain about negative search results.
Alert users quickly detect the online discrepancies.
Such exercises are a good reminder that search engine users should be vigilant - and that search results are only as good as the user. Search engine firms tweak algorithms, varying the results produced. Emphasis is placed on a users's own recent searchers. Discrepancies are to be expected. Vary search terms - for example, Rushe describes how Chinese users use "June 4" to get around blocks on "Tiananmen Square." Users should check multiple sources, and results should be double-checked and confirmed.
As Paul Gil notes, legitimate research requires more than a 10-second search on Google or Bing. Rushed results can lead to rush to judgment - both easy to avoid with a few more clicks.
Screenshots of Google searches for "Catholic" and "Islam."