HomeWinBuzzer NewsStudy: Microsoft Bing's China Censorship Exceeds Local Competitors

Study: Microsoft Bing’s China Censorship Exceeds Local Competitors

Bing blocks any translation mentioning President Xi Jinping and more domains than local competitors.

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A recent report from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab highlights that Microsoft's Bing censors content in more rigorously than its local counterparts.

According to the researchers, Bing completely blocks any translation mentioning President Xi Jinping, resulting in blank outputs. In comparison, Chinese services like Translate and Tencent Machine Translation only omit sentences with sensitive content, translating the rest fully.

Comparative Censorship Analysis

Jeffrey Knockel, a senior research associate at Citizen Lab, pointed out that Bing's strictness surpasses that of its Chinese rivals, leading to more extreme outcomes.

The report also indicates that Bing's search engine is more restrictive compared to services by Chinese firms. This contradicts the assumption that American tech companies would resist China's censorship demands more than local firms. has yet to comment on the findings.

Impact on Communication

Criticism surrounds Microsoft's approach for its broad censorship rules, which reportedly impair effective communication for users. It suggests that Bing's extensive censorship is likely due to a lack of investment in more refined filtering systems. Benjamin Fung, a professor at McGill University, explains that broader censorship is simpler to implement, sidestepping the need for detecting specific phrases.

“On a technical level, censoring more is easier to achieve. They don't have to detect exactly which phrase is sensitive. The software just has to make the binary decision: translate or not translate,” Fung told Rest of World.

The study observed that Bing often returns blank outputs when facing censored content. Conversely, Chinese services such as Baidu, Tencent, and NetEase merely remove the sensitive sentences to provide a partial translation. 's translation service indicates an error but will process the translation once the sensitive part is excluded.

Political and Market Implications

The study's authors report that in their analysis of eight search platforms accessible in China — Baidu, Baidu Zhidao, Bilibili, , Douyin, Jingdong, Sogou, and Weibo — they identified over 60,000 unique censorship rules that partially or completely censor the provided by these platforms.

The investigation covered various degrees of censorship impacting each platform, which could either completely obstruct all results or selectively permit certain content. We employed innovative techniques to precisely and unequivocally ascertain the rules that activate each form of censorship on all platforms. The study says:

“Among web search engines Microsoft Bing and Baidu, Bing's chief competitor in China, we found that, although Baidu has more censorship rules than Bing, Bing's political censorship rules were broader and affected more search results than Baidu. Bing on average also restricted displaying search results from a greater number of website domains.”

Citizen Lab's report also notes that Bing continues to block more website domains than its competitors, predominantly showing results from Chinese state media. The findings imply that Microsoft may have widened its censorship efforts to encompass new terms linked to recent political events in China and Taiwan.

US Senator Calls for Bing-Exit in China

The findings are likely to draw more attention from U.S. lawmakers. Back in March, Senator Mark Warner demanded Bing's exit from the Chinese market following revelations of Microsoft's compliance with excessive filtering of Chinese search results. Microsoft President recently addressed a congressional committee, discussing issues related to alleged Chinese cyber activities and the company's adherence to Chinese government regulations.

Samm Sacks, a senior fellow at Yale Law School, told Rest of World that companies like Microsoft are increasingly caught between pressures from both U.S. and Chinese authorities. Despite scrutiny, Microsoft continues to follow Chinese laws to sustain its operations within the country.

Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus is the founder of WinBuzzer and has been playing with Windows and technology for more than 25 years. He is holding a Master´s degree in International Economics and previously worked as Lead Windows Expert for Softonic.com.