Yahoo Search Defaults to Porn: How Did This Happen?

Linda Sharps

Oh dear. It's been a rough day at Yahoo, starting with the company laying off over 500 employees (approximately 4% of its workforce) less than two weeks before Christmas. That's never good, but things got a lot worse when something went horribly (awesomely?) awry with their image search. Apparently for quite a while this evening, almost whatever image result you clicked in Yahoo's web search displayed some rather graphic pornography.

Don't rush off to try this for yourself (come on, you KNOW you were about to) because the issue has been fixed, but for at least half an hour, if you looked for something on Yahoo using the "Web" search option, then clicked one of the integrated image results, Yahoo would serve up a very dirty picture of a man and woman performing an adult act—instead of whatever undoubtedly family-friendly thing you were researching. 

TechCrunch thoroughly tested things out (heh) and claims the same photo showed up no matter what they searched for. Earlier this evening, they verified the NC-17 image had been viewed almost 200,000 times, probably by a large number of horrified viewers who were innocently looking for pictures of ... I don't know, fluffy bunnies and stuff.

By 6:10 p.m. PST, Yahoo had skirted the problem by removing all images typically displayed as part of a web search.

So, the question is: was this a random, bizarre mistake? Or the work of a disgruntled employee? I can't lie, I sort of love the idea of some coder somewhere, pink slip in hand, laughing themselves sick over the frantic efforts at Yahoo tonight to fix the Surprise Porn Easter Egg they left behind.

Image via, naturally,

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