A storm has broken out over search engine censorship, and in this case Microsoft’s Bing has been accused of censoring China-related search results outside of the country itself. Redmond, however, has denied that this is the case.
This all started late on yesterday, when reports began to emerge noticing that Bing search results in the US were very different if you used the Chinese language as compared to English. In other words, Chinese citizens abroad appear to be subject to the same censorship restrictions as while they’re in their home country.
GreatFire.org, a China-based freedom of speech rights group, issued a statement to say that Bing was censoring politically sensitive terms such as, for example, the “Dalai Lama,” the famous spiritual leader who is considered to be a dangerous threat by China.
While Bing’s results in China are censored to follow the stipulations of the government – otherwise the search engine wouldn’t be operating there – this shouldn’t be the case for searches outside the country. However, Reuters reported this morning that Microsoft has denied the fact that there’s some manner of global blanket censorship on Chinese language searches.
Redmond is claiming that the search results ruckus is due to a system glitch.
Stefan Weitz, senior director for Bing, told Reuters: “Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results removal notification for some searches noted in the report [from GreatFire.org] but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China.”
Oddly, Weitz did not confirm whether or not this glitch had been fixed. We’d expect the PR folks will probably have a stronger response at some point today.
This isn’t the first Chinese-related controversy Redmond has been involved in, either. Last year, there was a fracas over Skype censorship in China, although that issue was resolved in November to the satisfaction of rights group GreatFire.org.
Google famously took a stand against Chinese censorship, and its Chinese search engine operates out of Hong Kong as a result. Reuters noted that in a Chinese language search for “Dalai Lama” from Singapore, Bing omitted several websites which were returned by Google – while the results from an English query were broadly similar.