Freeweibo, an anti-censorship organization that works on free speech issues in China, has discovered that the Chinese version of Microsoft's Bing search-engine censors its US version to match the censored results that would be shown within China. Search terms such as "Dalai Lama, June 4 incident (how the Chinese refer to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989), Falun Gong and FreeGate" return results dominated by censored Chinese news outlets like Baidu Baike and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The same searches run on the English version of Bing return pages from Wikipedia, BBC, the New York Times, etc.
Google's Chinese-language competitor displays much more parity between the Chinese and English editions -- the Chinese Google results for controversial subjects include Chinese articles from the BBC and Wikipedia.
Microsoft will not comment on the matter.
Update: Microsoft has commented:
"Bing does not apply China's legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China," Bing Senior Director Stefan Weitz notes in a prepared statement. "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.
As of 10PM Pacific on 12 Feb, many of the "controversial" search terms still generate results pages dominated by Chinese state media.
The information was first collected by censorship blog Greatfire.org. Author Charlie Smith said he had originally discovered the discrepancies while checking for information on his own website, FreeWeibo.com, a site for anonymously searching Chinese social media.
“The first thing we noticed was our index page was not showing up. It specifically did not show the homepage. But it was in Google,” he said.
“It’s a bit crazy. Any Chinese person who is searching in Chinese from overseas is being treated as if they have the same rights as a resident of mainland China. So we won’t show them the accurate search results if they search for Dalai Lama. What you get is state controlled propaganda,” he said. “Except they don’t tell you the results have been censored. If you were in China they would at least tell you that.”
“We thought there had been a mistake so we wrote to Microsoft and they said ‘no comment,’” he said.
Microsoft did not return calls for comment from the Guardian.
Bing censoring Chinese language search results for users in the US [Dominic Rushe/The Guardian]