Microsoft denies accusations of censorship on Bing outside China

Summary:Amid reports that Chinese-language searches are returning pro-state results even in the United States, Microsoft claims no results are doctored but blames the results discrepancy on an "error" in its system.

Microsoft has denied censoring results from its Bing search engine results, after a Chinese rights group accused the U.S. firm of doing so for Chinese language-related searches outside China.

Bing has been filtering out both English and Chinese language search results for politically-sensitive terms such as "Dalai Lama" and "Tiananmen", according to GreatFire.org, a China-based freedom of speech advocacy blog, in a statement on Tuesday.

For example, a search for "Dalai Lama" in English on Bing would return a list headed by the Dalai Lamai's own site and other related links such as Phayul.com, a pro-Tibetan independence site, noted The Guardian. However, the same search in Chinese language would be led by a link to a documentary by state-owned broadcaster CCTV.

However, Microsoft explained there was an error in its system after investigating the claims.

"First, Bing does not apply China's legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China. Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results removal notification for some searches noted in the report but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China," said Stefan Weitz, senior director for Bing, in a statement. He was referring to how Bing typically displays a notification for search results where it complies with censorship laws such as in China.

Weitz also responded to claims that FreeWeibo.com, a site for anonymously searching Chinese social media, was filtered out in Bing results. "Or investigation indicates that at some time in the past the page was marked as inappropriate due to low quality or adult.  After review, we have determined the page is acceptable for inclusion in global search results."

A search on Google using the term "Dalai Lama" in both Chinese and English also yields slightly different results, though both are led with Wikipedia entries. It may be worth noting that differences in results being reported could be due to search engine optimization and algorithms responding to different language inputs.

Topics: Censorship, China, Microsoft

About

Loves caption contests, leisurely strolls along supermarket aisles and watching How It's Made. Ryan has covered finance, politics, tech and sports for TV, radio and print. He is also co-author of best seller "Profit from the Panic". Ryan is an editor at ZDNet's Asia/Singapore office.

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