Microsoft unites political parties over Bing's China-backed censorship

Maintaining China's Great Firewall

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China-Bing Censorship

Microsoft has managed to unite polarized political parties with Democrat and Republican Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio respectively calling for the company to pull its search engine from China.

Following an investigative report published by Bloomberg Businessweek a few weeks ago which detailed Microsoft’s censoring practices with its Bing search engine to comply with China’s laws, Rubio emailed a statement to Bloomberg which reads,

Every company doing business in China makes concessions to a genocidal, authoritarian regime. American companies try to rationalize their choices to US lawmakers and regulators, but there is no defending censorship at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party.

In addition, Warner also called on Microsoft to reconsider providing Bing services to China on similar grounds of opposition to state-sponsored censorship. Warner is cognoscente of the decisions other US-based companies have made in regard to pulling services in China rather than remaining complicit with censorship and human rights abuses perpetrated by the country and suggests that Microsoft “should consider doing the same.”

While most international companies based outside of the country find the digital “Great Firewall of China” cumbersome to providing services, there are a handful of other businesses that continue to jump through the censorship hurdles to provide services to the region.

Microsoft, despite recent bi-partisan pressure, seems resolute in it continues business relationship in China, responding to questions from Bloomberg on the matter with the following statement:

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.

Dissecting the word salad provided by Microsoft; the company is under the impression that Bing’s presence in China is less of puppet service but a lifeline to Chinese locals to the outside world. Microsoft, Bing, and China have cuddled up to controversy over the years with the US-based software company reported to have censored terms in its autosuggestion model back in 2022, and providing pro-state results a decade earlier.

Microsoft is being called upon by interim China director at Human Rights Watch Maya Wang, to be more transparent when it’s asked to participate in censoring content from its search engine. Additionally, Wang is also suggesting Microsoft point to other local providers that have a vested interest in protecting human rights.

Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo famously pulled its service portfolio out of China due to similar state-requested censorship request, while Apple and Microsoft continue to offer products and services to the country for the time being.

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