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Censorship Microsoft

This Isn't the First Time Microsoft's Been Accused of Bing Censorship 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-can't-find-that-right-now dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Microsoft has censored Chinese-language results for Bing users in the United States as well as mainland China, according to an article in The Guardian. But this isn't the first time that Bing's run into significant controversy over the 'sanitizing' of Chinese-language search results outside of mainland China. In November 2009, Microsoft came under fire from free-speech advocates after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof accused the company of 'craven kowtowing' to the mainland Chinese government by sanitizing its Chinese-language search results for users around the world. Just as with The Guardian and other news outlets this week, Microsoft insisted at the time that a 'bug' was to blame for the sanitized search results. 'The bug identified in the web image search was indeed fixed,' a Microsoft spokesperson told me in December 2009, after I presented them with a series of screenshots suggesting that the pro-Chinese-government filter remained in effect even after Kristof's column. 'Please also note that Microsoft 'recognize[s] that we can continue to improve our relevancy and comprehensiveness in these web results and we will.' Time will tell whether anything's different this time around."
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This Isn't the First Time Microsoft's Been Accused of Bing Censorship

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  • Bing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by niff (175639) <[woutervannifterick] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:09PM (#46235187) Homepage

    Does anyone actually use it?

    • by rossdee (243626)

      Why did they name a search engine after the guy who sang White Christmas, and co-starred with Bob Hope?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Bing is set as the default browser on a bunch of Windows systems in many countries. This has allowed Microsoft to leverage their illegal monopoly on PC desktop operating systems (as described in Judge Jackson's findings of fact [justice.gov] and confirmed by the US court of appeal) to break into a market where their product would have no chance otherwise. In the EU, there have been systems configured with a choice of browsers and search engines, however that is an exception. That's basically showing how much of a comp

    • YES! (Score:3, Funny)

      I always forget the url for downloading firefox. So I can then use firefox to download chrome. And from chrome opera. That I use because I got a note on "Opera Link" on how to setup lynx. From which I can read my gopher page on how to arrange the ethernet wires on my tongue to consume the raw data directly into my brain that runs DOS 1.0.

    • Their porn results are really good.
  • Bing? (Score:5, Informative)

    by msobkow (48369) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:27PM (#46235273) Homepage Journal

    Why would anyone use Bing in the first place? It's results are very poor and scattered compared to Google, even on technical term searches that it should be able to do much better at.

    Google stays ahead of the pack because they do a good job of search, not just because they're the most familiar name. Until Bing and others can do at least as well, I'll keep drinking the kool-aid.

    • "Why would anyone use Bing in the first place?"

      Dictionary: "Bing is a wheat flour-based Chinese food with a flattened or disk-like shape"

      Maybe the name Bing sounds like it should be a very familiar and Chinese-friendly search engine.

      Maybe Chinese people feel uncomfortable with scary American names like "Yahoo!".

      Perhaps, most Chinese people have a friend named Bing?
    • Re:Bing? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:33AM (#46235571) Homepage Journal

      As much as I'd like to see MS die a slow painful corporate death due to its past greedy manipulation of "standards", we don't want a search monopoly either (in Google).

      I hate to say it, but I hope Bing stays alive in some form.

      • So you think that competition in the market is effective if the competition is totally useless and unused?

        Competition in the market is about HEALTHY competition, strong rivals competing. Not one towering giant and a whimpering mouse. Google right now has an effective search monopoly NOT because it is only player but because its competition is feeble.

        Are you also so delusional that you think a hobby garage turning out 3 roadsters per year is competition against say Ford? No. Volkswagen is competition against

        • by Tablizer (95088)

          I believe you are exaggerating. Microsft has found ways to trick a fair amount of Wintel users into using Bing. (I'm not condoning their methods, only addressing the market-share issue here.)

          Further, weak competition is better than no competition. Strong competition is better than weak competition, but if that's not available than weak competition is the next best thing, and still better than no competition.

          You seem to be arguing that weak competition is just as bad as no competition, which I reject.

    • Re:Bing? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bite The Pillow (3087109) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:56AM (#46235653)

      To have an unbiased opinion, you really should have your search plugin randomized. Organically, you will notice one is better. Or maybe they have different strengths depending on subject.

      I don't know anyone who can speak to that honestly, and usually people who say one search is better are just better trained to use it vs. others.

      I know how to modify a Google search with "wrong" words to make it find what I'm after, so it works better. Bing is at least slightly different, so if my search didn't work I'm stuck. That means I'm better at Google, not that Google is better at me.

      And the more they tweak, the less of an edge I have. Some day I expect it will be a tie, especially when they track which results get clicked to determine which results to show. People don't know if it is worth clicking until after, not before the click.

      • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @01:20AM (#46235721)

        I don't know anyone who can speak to that honestly, and usually people who say one search is better are just better trained to use it vs. others.

        Every now and then, I switch to Bing for a few weeks.

        I don't really want to use Google, I like to even things out and not give Google all of the valuable data about search and search results preferences.

        But, I can say with certainty, Google is simply better. At least a few times a day when I've switched to Bing as a default engine, I have to load Google to actually find what I want.

        It's true of programming (as you'd expect) but also true of photography, travel, and random other categories of things.

        At the moment, Google simply is noticeably better than anyone else. Which is why I switch back, because at some point you just need to use tools that work well for a while.

      • by Wootery (1087023)

        To have an unbiased opinion, you really should have your search plugin randomized. Organically, you will notice one is better.

        Err, [wikipedia.org] no [wikipedia.org].

      • by amiga3D (567632)

        We have Bing as the default search engine on our browsers at work and I can't change it. I'm constantly having to manually bring up a google search page because on every third or fourth thing I search Bing doesn't cut it. I see a "big" difference in the two but really I don't care that much what other people use. If you like Bing better then have at it. Your pain isn't my pain.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        I don't use Bing. Not because of it's results, or how it looks - simply because it's Microsoft.

        Shallow? Perhaps... but it's my own opinion and I'm allowed to have it. :)

      • by swillden (191260)

        Some day I expect it will be a tie, especially when they track which results get clicked to determine which results to show.

        They've been tracking which results get clicked and using that to help evaluate result quality since the very beginning. The big indicator isn't what people click, it's what people click last, since presumably that click got them what they needed. Of course, it could also be that they gave up, or ran out of time, or something else so "last click" isn't a perfect indicator of success, but it's useful.

        Personally, I doubt that it will ever be a tie. Google has the bigger and better search engine development

    • by Ravaldy (2621787)

      You're right but women in our office all prefer bing for the nice daily background they get from it. Most of the women in the office our knowledgeable enough to switch to google if they aren't happy with the results.

    • by sjames (1099)

      The really sad part is that I tested Bing vs. Google on search terms suggested in Bing commercials and Bing still lost.

      For example, 'coffee'. Bing gave me all the Starbucks in the area (closest one 10 miles) but ignored a really nice local coffee shop (4 miles away) that I prefer and several others, all closer than the nearest Starbucks.

      I guess when they made the commercials they should have used some sort of search engine to find terms where Bing was better than Google.

  • Two roughly similar problems over 5 years might lead you to suppose they did this out of malevolence. But let's look at the value proposition. Bing Lord 1: Let's censor all Chines language results to please our Mainland Chinese overlords! Bing Lord 2: Good idea! They'll appreciate it if we solve a problem we already solved for them. Bing Lord 1: Yes! In the meantime we'll piss off everybody else who gets wind of it, and get lots of free publicity from the ensuing shit storm! Both: We are incredibly smart!
  • That's pretty sanitized, as opposed to People's Republic of China - a reminder that they are, in fact a totalitarian oligarchy (remembering that "few" in 1,360 million is in absolute terms quite a lot).

    • Authoritarian, yes. Totalitarian, no. Words mean things, and these two things are not the same thing at all.

      Not sure what you mean by "sanitised". I think you are picking at a nit that doesn't really exist---a bit like that poster who got bent out of shape a few days ago over some imaginary political implications of using "The Ukraine" vs "Ukraine" as if the former hadn't been the norm for centuries in English usage up until about 20 years ago.

      • by Nutria (679911)

        Authoritarian, yes. Totalitarian, no.

        After reading more, I agree: the PRC is Authoritarian.

        these two things are not the same thing at all.

        Hmmm. They're pretty damned similar.

        Not sure what you mean by "sanitised".

        You're presumably a smart guy for saying "words mean things". Soft-soap the name of the government for long enough, and people forget what it is.

        • by _merlin (160982)

          There are two governments that claim to be the legitimate government of all of China: one located on the mainland, and one located in Taiwan. Simple as that. There's a similar situation in Korea, where two governments claim to be the legitimate government of all of Korea. Do you call them North/South Korea, or do you make a point of saying DPKR/RoK? Do you call Taiwan RoC for that matter?

          • by Nutria (679911)

            There are two governments that claim to be the legitimate government of all of China: one located on the mainland, and one located in Taiwan.

            But only one of them is on the mainland. So maybe "the writer" has pro-Nationalist sympathies... ;)

  • MS seems desperate for search market-share. Knowing this, the Eastern Devil likely made them a deal.

  • Google's and Bing's image search return completely different photos with "safe search" disabled. Of course, Google's explanation is that you have to explicitly search using pornographic terms if you want porn to be included in the results. IMHO, their image search censorship makes their results broken, since they do not accurately depict the content of the Internet (which we all know, is for porn [youtube.com]).

    Sure, it sounds like I'm a troll spouting a line of scroogled pro-Microsoft BS, but I honestly just feel it's

  • How is it that Microsoft has the technical know how to sanitize chinese searches, yet not sanitize the english ones of blatant porn?
  • This Isn't the First Time Microsoft's Been Accused of Bing Censorship

    This is the sort of thing you'd expect as a footer to an article on the current accusation. It's not really news in itself, unless it went unreported at the time (which it didn't).

    And Can We Drop the Gratuitous and Arbitrary Capitalisation?

  • A few facts ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by jamesl (106902) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @08:03AM (#46236871)

    There has been discussion over the past day or so that Bing results for Chinese language queries done outside of China are somehow intentionally edited or incomplete for political censoring purposes. We can emphatically confirm that they are not. The only time Bing adjusts search results is to comply with local law or for quality or safety reasons such as child abuse or malware. Bing search results outside of China are not subject to and are not modified in any way based on Chinese law.

    The error we referenced yesterday was one where we incorrectly showed a Chinese âremoval notificationâ(TM) message outside of China to users who have selected to view Bingâ(TM)s People Republic of China version. This message was displayed outside of China with this PRC version of Bing where results were suppressed for any reason (child abuse content, spam, etc.). Again, the search results outside of China were unaltered, and were not censored.

    We understand that with casual inspection, users may be concerned about censorship when seeing the âremoval notificationâ(TM) message intended for users in China and some difference in results between Chinese language and English language searches, but again we can confirm this is not the case. The wrong notification message is simply being displayed in limited circumstances, and we are in the process of fixing that issue.

    It has been noted that some popular sites such as Facebook are at times not shown in China. The fact that results from such sites are shown in Bing outside of China when using the Chinese language is an easy way for anyone to quickly reassure themselves that the results are not being censored.
    The reason results are different for Chinese and English queries however, is because 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. As always, however, we are constantly evaluating how to deliver the best results to our customers around the world.

    - Stefan Weitz, Senior Director, Bing

    http://www.bing.com/blogs/site... [bing.com]

    And no, I don't work for Microsoft.

  • Nobody's ever going to say "you should Bing that".

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