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Microsoft critics demand China pullout over Bing censorship • The Register

Microsoft is the subject of growing criticism in the US over allegations that its Bing search engine censors results for users in China that relate to sensitive subjects the state wants blocked.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio has added his voice to criticism of the Redmond software giant for reportedly removing search results from Bing on human rights, democracy, climate change, and other sticky issues within China.

The move follows an earlier call from Democrat Senator Mark Warner for Microsoft to consider shutting off access to Bing in China for the same reasons after a report from Bloomberg claimed the platform was excluding information on certain topics to satisfy Beijing.

Rubio said there was “no defending” such actions, and that “every company doing business in China makes concessions to a genocidal, authoritarian regime.”

Warner had earlier said that US companies should not be facilitating censorship by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), noting that other US companies had pulled their services rather than be complicit with human rights abuses, “and Bing should consider doing the same.”

According to Bloomberg, Google and Yahoo no longer deliver results using their own search engines in China, while many services based in Western countries such as Facebook, Snapchat, and the service formerly known as Twitter are blocked.

However, Redmond continues to provide a local version of Bing in the country, and that requires it to comply with the Chinese government’s demands, whatever opinions people may have about that.

We asked Microsoft about this issue, and a spokesperson told The Reg: “Bing is the least censored search engine in China and is often the only accessible source for volumes of information there, even if we must eliminate certain results under Chinese law.

“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.”

In other words, Microsoft does what Beijing orders it to do, as a condition of being allowed to continue operating in China, but it likes to believe Chinese users would be worse off if it wasn’t there.

There is a long history of China censoring information and restricting what its citizens can see of the wider internet via the Great Firewall, and it isn’t the first time this has involved Microsoft.

Back in 2022, it was reported that Bing was not only censoring terms deemed sensitive from its autosuggestion feature, but that this was also being applied internationally.

Going back further, a decade ago it was reported that Bing appeared to be returning suspiciously pro-state results for Chinese-language searches, even when those searches came from outside of the country. ®

Originally Appeared Here

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