Fake Pharm Ads Flood Bing, Microsoft Benefits: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has been accused of failing to do enough to prevent rogue pharmaceutical ads on the results page of its new search engine, Bing. But the claim comes in a report from a group with a clear commercial interest and uses language which gives a misleading impression.

The authors of the report searched Bing for ten pharmaceutical products, covering a mix of drugs for sexually-related conditions and drugs with the potential to be abused. They then looked at the "sponsored search results" which appear on the right-hand side of the screen.

According to the authors, 89.7% of the drug providers which appeared in this section were definitely breaking US laws. Included were those selling prescription-only drugs without a prescription, those selling from unlicensed sources, those sourcing drugs from outside the US and those which are "otherwise deceptive or misleading". (Source: legitscript.com)

Microsoft Investigating Issue

Microsoft has responded by stating that "[they] take these claims very seriously and are currently investigating this issue."

Microsoft currently contracts a firm named PharmacyChecker to scrutinize advertisers of pharmaceutical products which apply to have paid ads appear on Bing. (Source: pcworld.com)

The problem with the report is that while the research is legitimate and raises an important point, the source is not unbiased. The report was produced by anti-spam firm KnujOn and LegitScript, a firm which also verifies legitimate online pharmacies, and thus is a commercial rival of PharmacyChecker.

Who is Sponsoring Whom?

The report repeatedly refers to the results being "sponsored" by Microsoft. This occurs consistently throughout the report, including phrases such as "Microsoft has been informed, in writing, that it is sponsoring rogue Internet pharmacies" and "Rogue Internet Pharmacies Sponsored by Microsoft".

The way the report uses the term appears as if it is the complete opposite of its intended meaning, and thus gives the impression that Microsoft actively condones or endorses the products that appear in the said ads.

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