Bing: Censoring Because China Buys Lots of MSFT Products and Services

May 27, 2022

If you think restrictions in one country do not extend to those on the other side of the world, think again. Motherboard reports, “Microsoft’s Chinese Bing Censorship Impacts United States Too, Researchers Say.” We do not find this to be a surprise since big outfits do what’s necessary to sell in a nation state and reduce their costs of operation. Do the filtering once, then do it for everyone. Efficient. Writer Joseph Cox tells us:

“Microsoft-owned search engine Bing censors content that is politically sensitive to the Chinese government for users who are using the search engine from the United States, researchers claim in a new report. The research shows how censorship efforts in one country can bleed over and impact users in others. The findings come after Bing censored image searches for the infamous ‘tank man‘ even from the United States last June. At the time, Microsoft blamed that issue on an ‘accidental human error.’ The new research indicates more widespread censorship of politically sensitive searches, and especially names of certain people. ‘Using statistical techniques, we preclude politically sensitive Chinese names in the United States being censored purely through random chance. Rather, their censorship must be the result of a process disproportionately targeting names which are politically sensitive in China,’ the report, written by researchers from the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs Citizen Lab, reads. Microsoft operates Bing in China with limitations in place so it falls in line with Chinese law. Much of that involves heavy censorship around certain topics, events, and people, often resulting in those areas being undiscoverable via Bing searches conducted from within China.”

And from without, apparently. Specifically, the study looked at Bing’s auto-complete function. See the write-up for its methodology and findings. For its part Microsoft insists not seeing a relevant autosuggestion is “largely” based on each query and local user behavior and “does not mean it has been blocked.” We note that is not quite an outright denial. Globalization! How is that working out?

Cynthia Murrell, May 27, 2022


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