Microsoft's Bing will power Baidu's English-language search in China. But will the partnership attract controversy over censorship?
pairing with China's largest Internet search provider, Baidu, to provide users
with search results for English-language queries.
for Shanghai MSN Network Communications Technology, also known as MSN China, told the Wall
Street Journal July 4
results would be labeled as coming from Bing. The deal holds substantial
benefits for both companies: Baidu is looking to expand its user base, while
Microsoft has made no secret of its desire for inroads into the Chinese market.
is whether the Chinese government will demand Microsoft censor those
English-language results. "Microsoft respects and follows laws and
regulations in every county where we run business," a Microsoft
spokesperson told The New York
July 4. "We operate in China in a manner that both
respects local authority and culture and makes it clear that we have
differences of opinion with official content management policies."
Google continues to dominate the worldwide market for Web search, the company's
run-ins with the Chinese government over issues like censorship are well-known.
Following a hack of Google servers in early 2010 that exposed Gmail accounts of
human-rights activists, Google ceased censoring search results in the country
and redirected users to the Google.hk domain in Hong Kong. In March 2011, the
company accused the Chinese government of disrupting Gmail service
president, Hu Jintao, has called for tighter Internet controls to prevent
internal unrest, which apparently includes filtering out news of uprisings
across the Middle East. The Chinese government also denies it had anything to
do with the cyber-attacks on Google and other U.S. companies, including defense
also courted its share of controversy with regard to China. Bing came under
fire in November 2009, when New York Times
columnist Nicholas Kristof accused
Microsoft of "craven kowtowing" to the Chinese government by offering
"sanitized pro-Communist results" in response to Bing searches in
Simplified Chinese for terms such as "Tiananmen" and "Dalai
Kristof said, when "Tiananmen" was typed into the English-language
version of Bing, the top-level results featured Websites such as Wikipedia
describing the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. However, when the same term
was input into the Simplified Chinese version of Bing, the results made no
mention of protests or the subsequent massacre.
the search with simplified characters used in mainland China, then you get sanitized
pro-Communist results," Kristof wrote in his Nov. 20 column
. "This is
especially true of image searches. Magic! No Tiananmen Square massacre."
originally wrote about the issue in June 2009, Microsoft apparently told him
that the Simplified Chinese search results were the result of a "bug"
that would be fixed. In his November column, though, Kristof insisted that his
searches continued to produce the same sanitized results as before. To back his
linked to a Web page
of Bing processing specific terms in Simplified
A few days
after Kristof's November column, Microsoft claimed it fixed a "bug"
that made Bing Image Search deliver uniformly pro-Chinese-government results in
response to politically sensitive queries input in Simplified Chinese. Soon
after that alleged fix, eWEEK input Simplified Chinese terms considered politically
to the People's Republic of China, such as "Tiananmen
Square" and "Falun Gong," into Bing. The results seemed mixed
identified in the Web image search was indeed fixed," a Microsoft
spokesperson insisted to eWEEK
In April 2010,
Microsoft also investigated allegations of labor violations at the KYE factory
in China's Dongguan City. While the company claimed it corrected "some
issues" that violated its Vendor Code of Conduct, the nonprofit National
Labor Committee-which originally highlighted the factory conditions-found their
China, all you can possibly get is the dog-and-pony show," Charles Kernaghan,
the organization's director, told eWEEK
at the time. "They know there's not going to be any open discussion with
With the Baidu
deal, the question now is whether Microsoft's increased involvement in China's
search-engine market will result in Google-style conflicts over censorship, or
whether Redmond will hew silently to the Chinese government's policies.
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