Microsoft sets the record straight about Chinese language search censorship

Microsoft sets the record straight about Chinese language search censorship

Search results returned by Bing came under the spotlight this week as it was suggested that Microsoft was censoring Chinese language searches regardless of whether they were conducted in China. Writing on the Bing Blog, Bing's Senior Director, Stefan Weitz, speaks out further with a view to setting the record straight.

It had previously been suggested that the fact that English and Chinese language searches were returning different results -- with Chinese searches seemingly showing a preference for pro-China sites when particular search terms were used. There have been allegations that Bing results are "intentionally edited or incomplete for political censoring purposes". Weitz responds to this by saying "we can emphatically confirm that they are not."

He explains that Bing's results for searches conducted outside of China are not subject to Chinese law. Searches that resulted in a "removal notification" message when viewing Bing’s People Republic of China version only appeared when a site was restricted for another reason such as displayed images of child abuse.

So the implication is that within China some form of complaints have been made about a number of websites resulting in a removal notice, but Weitz goes on to say "the wrong notification message is simply being displayed in limited circumstances, and we are in the process of fixing that issue."

He also points that that direct comparisons should not necessarily be drawn between the same searches carried out in different languages: "Searches in different languages are fundamentally different queries. A result may show lower in one language versus another for a variety of reasons, such as fewer users choosing that link in English results compared to users who searched in another language."

This is unlikely to be the end of the matter as the internet thrives on conspiracy theories! What do you make of it all?