Israeli researchers published a harm study in October that looked at search-engine queries involving cannabis. They stated their goal as follows: "Internet search engine queries have been used to investigate [adverse drug reactions] in pharmaceutical drugs. In this proof-of-concept study, we tested whether these queries can be used to detect the adverse reactions of cannabis use."
In a sign of just how hip the researchers are, they tested their search engine query using Bing.
For those under the age of 30, Bing is a search engine owned and created by Microsoft and named in part because it sounds like the game Bingo. To quote television host Stephen Colbert, "Bing is a great website for doing internet searches. I know that because I Googled it."
To summarize the study, people who use Bing to research information on cannabis often want to know about adverse reactions, including cough, psychotic symptoms and pyrexia. Taking this data, the researchers concluded, "These results indicate that search engine queries can serve as an important tool for the study of adverse reactions of illicit drugs, which are difficult to study in other settings."
Even if the data is correct, a major question must be asked: What type of person uses Bing, and does it accurately represent the cannabis community?
ABorg, a technology company out of Canada, compared user traits and demographics between Google and Bing and published the findings here. What are the highlights? Eighty-seven percent of Bing users come from Internet Explorer, an extremely out-of-date web browser that Microsoft dropped in 2015 and that inspired an endless array of humorous memes. Not surprisingly, Bing users also tend to be blue collar, older and "generally less techy."
There's more. In a story titled "Believe it or not, these people actually use Bing," Techradar concluded, "It turns out that there are Bing users out there. For some people it's just a way of sticking it to Google." The anti-Google bent adds another twist since one of the tech giant's biggest critics is the alt-right.
Per the harm study, the numerous searches for adverse effects reconfirms the risks of cannabis, but ABorg also found that Bing users typically have kids, which suggests the searches possibly came from concerned parents. Keep in mind, one of the most-searched adverse effects was pyrexia, better known as a fever. So, was the Bing user a cannabis smoker who thought a joint caused a fever, or was it a parent whose kid got a fever prompting fears that the kid might be on drugs? If unsure, ask a hundred stoners if weed causes fevers, and see how many laugh at the question.
Millennials have higher rates of cannabis use and almost nonexistent use of Bing, which makes the findings about as valuable as a copy of Internet Explorer 8. All these problems can be summed up in this line from a Passion Digital post: "There's a reason why the most searched keyword in Bing is 'Google.'"
Photo credit: Instagram/fallforvee.