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New report claims to have info on Microsoft's censorship of Bing in China

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While Microsoft's Bing search engine is only used by a small percentage of internet users in most of the world, that's not the case in one of the planet's biggest countries, China. Indeed, Statcounter's site shows that Microsoft is the second most used search engine in that country, with a current 16.46 percent share (Baidu is number one with 60.1 percent). By contrast, Bing's share in the US is just 8.07 percent, and worldwide it is even lower at only 3.32 percent.

The big reason why Bing is used more in China is that Google pulled out of that country many years ago. Now a new report from Bloomberg uses a number of unnamed sources to show how Microsoft censors its Bing search engine to keep it operating in China.

Microsoft keeps itself in check with China's internet censorship laws by not showing search results for a number of text prompts. Those banned search terms include “human rights", "Tiananmen Square massacre,” and "tank man".

The "tank man" term refers to the famous person who was photographed blocking a number of tanks during the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. In 2021, people outside of China were unable to search for that term on Bing for a brief period of time. Bloomberg reports the reason was that Microsoft accidentally set up its China blacklist of censored search terms to the entire world.

The article also points out that Microsoft employs thousands of people in China, and some of them work on products that are banned in that country, including its recent Copilot generative AI chatbot.

While some believe that Microsoft's censorship of certain terms on Bing in China does not conform to the company's public stance on supporting human rights worldwide, the company officially does not agree. It has a quote from Microsoft's head of communications Frank Shaw who said in part:

We only censor a result in response to a narrow legal order that we conclude obligates us to do so, and we regularly push back when we believe an order doesn’t comply with proper interpretation of Chinese rules. The alternative is to leave the market which would only serve to cut people off from information they otherwise have through Bing.

It looks like Microsoft is committed to offering Bing in China, even under its internet censorship laws. Only time will tell if that will continue under the current Chinese government.

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