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Censorship Microsoft

Bing Censoring All Simplified Chinese Language Queries 214

Posted by Soulskill
from the boy-that's-a-great-wall dept.
boggis writes "Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times journalist, is calling for a boycott of Microsoft's Bing. They have censored search requests at the request of the Chinese Government (like certain others). The difference is that Bing has censored all searches done anywhere in simplified Chinese characters (the characters used in mainland China). This means that a Chinese speaker searching for Tiananmen anywhere in the world now gets the impression that it is just a lovely place to visit."
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Bing Censoring All Simplified Chinese Language Queries

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  • Anyone surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NecroPuppy (222648) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @05:20AM (#30183126) Homepage

    This is Microsoft.

    They probably meant to only censor these things in China, but v1 of their filters are worldwide.

    They'll have it fixed by v3. Probably. Maybe. I doubt it.

    (Note: I also think that the MS Bing commercials are about the dumbest I've seen. They beat out the mother and son's college roommate making kissy faces at each other. And that takes doing.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 21, 2009 @05:28AM (#30183148)

    Are they stating on said search results that they have filtered the results due to Chinese laws?

    I mean, they can be only so subtle about it before China decides to block it entirely but at least MS could dangle that bit of info there for any one curious to wonder "Hey, now what law is that and why is it enforced?"

    It's most likely illegal to give people unbiased information or hint at the fact you are being compelled to give limited information. Living with government abuses is a condition of doing business in any country.

    It's not just China that does this anyway, they just do it worse than most. Behavior of this type is common in most countries. I've seen a few blatant examples of this kind of censorship from the UK coming from both the government and private interests. It's likely that for every government abuse of this type that's noticed there are a few thousand that aren't.

  • by reporter (666905) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @05:29AM (#30183156) Homepage
    The reporter at the "New York Times" completely misses the big picture. If Bing is censoring only simplified Chinese queries, then anyone in mainland China can do a search in any other language and obtain the full uncensored results.

    In other words, Microsoft has cleverly created a big hole (in its agreement with Beijing) that allows uncensored information to flood into China. The only catch is that the query must be in some language (e. g., English) that is not simplied Chinese.

    By contrast, Google censors everything in China, regardless of the language used for the query.

    Besides, Microsoft's scheme will encourage ordinary Chinese to learn a foreign language: English., Japanese, etc. Doing so is always positive as many Western languages means many channels by which foreign ideas can enter China, thus modernizing it.

  • Re:contrast (Score:4, Interesting)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @05:58AM (#30183262) Journal

    Actually, this gets more interesting having looked into this more closely. It's just about possible that Microsoft is being less evil than Google in this case. Whilst Google admits to deliberate censorship both on its google.cn site and (to a much lesser extent but still to some extent) on its google.com site (they eliminate some Falun Gong results from their image search - they admit this), Microsoft are pleading a different case. Basically, Microsoft have stated that the way their search engine works is to return results with a preference toward sites in the language searched in. Naturally when you search in simplified Chinese characters, which are overwhelmingly used in mainland China as opposed to places like Hong Kong and Taiwan which use the complex form, most of the results in that language are going to be from mainland China. And mainland Chinese websites are, well, not going to be essays about Tiannamen Square or have many pro-Falun Gong material.

    I condemn censorship, but Microsoft's explanation is eminently plausible. In fact, if you thought about it, it's a natural consequence of returning search results in a particular language if that language is more or less exclusive to a particular nation that censors.
  • Re:Chinese (Score:3, Interesting)

    by syousef (465911) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @06:03AM (#30183284) Journal

    The marketing companies of the West aren't interested in fighting their battles. Stop expecting ad pimps to be responsible for liberating anyone. Instead, raise your expectations of the Chinese.

    Stop expecting the Chinese to be responsible for liberating anyone. Instead, despair.

  • Re:contrast (Score:3, Interesting)

    by netsharc (195805) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @06:29AM (#30183344)

    Of course it's very possible that there are people outside of Mainland China writing about Tiannamen, using simplified Chinese. A Google search (not a Bing one!) should confirm that.

    So who speaks simplified Chinese?

  • by AnotherUsername (966110) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @06:38AM (#30183380)
    While I realize that this is very ideological of myself, but why don't the various search engines just tell China to fuck off? I mean, why does the rest of the world put up with China's bullshit? Whether it is economic warfare on the rest of the world by artificially devaluing its currency, to their lack of basic human rights, to the fact that without a basic freedom to read opposing views, nothing is due to change anytime in the near future, China is a problem to everyone else.

    By the way, I do realize that one of the main reasons that the search engines are not telling China to fuck off is pure and simple: money. There is a lot of ad revenue to be had by companies like Google and Bing.
  • by BhaKi (1316335) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @06:45AM (#30183408)

    Once we're boycotting all the search engines that have caved into to the demands of the Chinese government, what search engines are left?

    If you think that very few search engines would be left, then there's a better strategy for you: Instead of boycotting search engines, boycott Chinese products. That's what your government wants to achieve by flooding media with anti-China news. The sooner you boycott Chinese products, the sooner I get back a shit-free Slashdot. Oh, wait! What have I been thinking? After boycotting Chinese products, there will be news flood about some other country.

  • Re:Chinese (Score:4, Interesting)

    by elnyka (803306) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @07:44AM (#30183590) Homepage
    BTW, I'm not bagging on the Chinese. I'm simply stating that for democracy to takes place, they have to undergo a deep and widespread cultural change. Their culture has been based on authoritarian figures, be it dynastic or socialist. And yet, they are now consciously in the 20-21st century. So it is up to them to get democratic institutions to work for them. No amount of protestation from our part against collaborating search engines will ever change that.
  • Is it legal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pmontra (738736) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @08:02AM (#30183650) Homepage
    Can they censor queries made by American citizens using a simplified chinese keyboard in the USA?
  • by hengdi (1202709) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @08:20AM (#30183702)

    By contrast, Google censors everything in China, regardless of the language used for the query.

    Not true. I live in China, and can easily find info on Tiananmen square, I just have to use google.com and not google.cn.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 21, 2009 @09:12AM (#30183928)

    Have you ever done something wrong and then not wanted to talk about it? If you have, you know that avoiding the subject doesn't make it go away, but hey, at least it means you don't have to keep on confronting the it. In fact, as you may have seen it, ignoring your lapse may have allowed you to maintain a sufficient level of self-respect so that one day you could become a better person. It's always good to staying positive, right?

    So what is the Chinese censorship of 64? At its core it is nothing more than a government-dictated instance of the above coping mechanism. Why is this important to know? Because unfortunately too many Westerners believe that its censorship has instead been some delusional attempt to rewrite history. If you're one of them, please, listen up. The Chinese do not want to rewrite history -- it's just that the wound is still too fresh for them to talk about it. Give them about 50 years and the discourse will change.

    Also, please stop thinking that the government censorship is in someway actually preventing Chinese people themselves from knowing about 64. Oh sure, maybe you have a friend who told you that when they asked a mainlander about Tiananmen, they didn't seem to know anything except for how it's a good place for tourism. But do you want to know the real truth? Chinese people carry shame strongly (as do many other people), and the actual reason that person acted ignorant is because they just don't want to talk about it with your arrogant foreign ass. Sorry, they just don't. Imagine if tourists just kept on bugging Americans about slavery or the War in Iraq? The first couple times you may say something, but after a while, it'd just boil down to "whatever, are you going to buy the cap with the flag on it or what?".

    So are we Americans any different? Ask us at a good time about the awful choices our nation has made, and the response you'll most often hear is, "that was the government's decision, not my own". From the sounds of it, maybe our choice of coping mechanism is different, but when it comes down to it our inability to attest to our own failures gleams threw just the same.

    Point is, please stop picking on the Chinese. Let them as a modern nation continue to mature and prosper. They have come so far despite their numerous failures, and deserve our respect and at least a minor attempt at genuine understanding.

  • Re:Chinese (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 21, 2009 @10:10AM (#30184328)

    I am home-staying with a Chinese family, and they are generally very nice. They are a well educated, well-to-do family, both parents having lived and worked in Japan for at least a decade, and are currently working in Australia.

    However, in the few political discussions I have had with them (which I really don't want to get drawn into, for obvious reasons that I am Taiwanese, anti-Chinese Communist Party, anti-KMT, and me being their tenant an'all :-P) they seem to have a very warped view on having democracy in China (with hints that it applies to all Asian countries too!). It seems that they like the idea of democracy, but insists that it simply would not work in China because of greed and corruption, not in the top echelons of government, but instead at the lower levels where, according to them, it is apparantely impossible to control. Their view is that the democracy that exists in Taiwan is a shambles, almost as if they see it as a farcical show.

    However - this is a family that has emigrated and enjoyed the freedom of Japan, and Australia (eg they have two kids!!). So, what seems to be weird about their thoughts are:

    1. They are quietly proud of themselves being of Chinese heritage (well actually that can be said of most nationalities)
            - but they choose to live anywhere but China, yes I heard them say they'd much rather be in Oz or Japan than China.

    2. They quietly want the respect and admiration of the westerners/foreigners (again, who doesn't like that) to the extent they'll show that they are educated enough to agree that democracy is a Good Thing(TM)
            - but they criticise the free and democratic Taiwan. They insisting that Taiwan is part of China, common cultures etc blah... but that Taiwan's democracy must be a joke, they should not follow suit because China does not work that way. How in the world can they possibly expect respect when they choose the bad thing while *knowing* that it is bad, for the 'practical' reason namely that Chinese people are too corrupt? Am I alone in thinking that it must cause them some pain to think like this? not being able to hold your head up high the very moment the topic of politics come up in polite company - "oh that lofty idea, its good, but Chinese people can't do it, but don't you dare insult us and can we has some respect plz!"

    I suspect the reason that they still have these views despite having lived abroad for so long may partly be helped by the internet. I have noticed that they get their dose of news from Chinese media, and not the western outlets (well the parents do - I hope the kids will not be subjected to too much of this biased, ultra-nationalist reporting). It is sad to see that the stranglehold of the CCP is so strong though.

    In relation to your post - no I do not to expect the Chinese will fix the problem of filtering themselves anytime soon, there are plenty who are fine with what seems to be contradicting thoughts that their government feeds them through their monstrously powerful media.

  • Re:contrast (Score:4, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:33PM (#30185808) Journal

    >>>Some people say Google shouldn't censor results because it is immoral to do so. If it is immoral to censor results, the fact that MS will gain dominance in China is irrelevant.

    Not really. You have the choice of two evils:
    (1) Google and Microsoft coexist. They both censor but at least there's competition and choice.
    (2) Google is blocked from China. Microsoft is allowed in because they "play ball". MS quickly becomes a monopoly.

    Option 1 has one evil (censorship). Option 2 has two evils (censorship and a corporate monopoly). I choose the lesser of the two evils which is option 1, and I suspect Google has the same thought process. ----- I also recognize that in politics, things change over time. Sometimes in the future I expect that Google will pressure China to remove the censorship from search results. Google can not exert that pressure if they are not in China.

    >>>I'm just trying to explain why your claim that others are naive is insulting and false.

    (shrug) It's not my fault the opposite side didn't bother to think it through. It's a bit like the Slavery protester John Brown, who believed all he had to do was grab a military base and the slaves would rise up. He didn't think it through either, and ended-up dead

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam