It's no secret China heavily censors internet usage by its citizens. But censorship of Chinese-language search results in the U.S. — that's a new one.
Microsoft's Bing is taking heat for accusations of censorship first made in The Guardian. The paper reports politically-sensitive terms are showing up very differently when searched for in English and Chinese.
Take, for instance, the term “Dalai Lama.” When searching in English, the first result is the Tibetan leader's official homepage, followed by his Wikipedia page and images of him.
But the same search in Chinese, takes you to China’s heavily-censored Wikipedia equivalent and also to a documentary by CCTV, the country’s state-run TV station. (Via Bing)
Chinese bloggers pointed out the same issue occured searching for disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, Tiananmen Square, and the spiritual movement Falun Gong. (Via Bing)
A spokesperson for Microsoft told The Verge the discrepancies are due to a technical glitch, not censorship, noting Bing "does not apply China's legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China."
But Chinese anti-censorship blog, Greatfire.org, isn’t buying it. Telling Time, Microsoft is “trying to cover up their complicit involvement in China’s attempts to cleanse the worldwide web of any negative information about the Middle Kingdom.”
Observers have pointed out Microsoft made clear that it wants to greatly expand its presence in China's search-engine market, and this wouldn't be the first time the tech company has come under fire for alleged censorship.
In 2006, it admitted to removing the MSN blog of an outspoken Chinese activist — which many speculated was becausse of pressure from Beijing. (Via CNET)
While Microsoft denies these latest censorship allegations, a writer at Salon notes the damage may already be done. "When you are as far behind the market leader as Bing lags behind Google, establishing unimpeachable credibility counts."
And it's not just Bing Microsoft has to worry about. The Guardian notes the discrepancies in search results are similar on Yahoo — also powered by Microsoft's search engine.