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Bing is available once again in China (update)

Updated January 24, 2019: Bloomberg reports that Bing is once again available in China. The outage, according to the report, was due to a technical error, rather than intentional censorship. The original story follows.

China this week appeared to block Bing search, according to The New York Times. The site is currently inaccessible within the country, making it the latest western tech company to fall outside of China's "Great Firewall."

It's unclear if the block is permanent, but a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that "Bing is currently inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps."

A permanent block on Bing would leave Chinese internet users to rely solely on Baidu, the largest search engine within the country. That's despite efforts by Microsoft to comply with the censorship policies of the Chinese government. Searches for topics deemed controversial by the governing Communist Party, for example, are removed from Bing or populated with approved results.

Bing wouldn't be the first western service to be censored from China's internet. Facebook, Twitter, and Google–all dominating platforms around the world–can only be accessed within China through methods used to circumvent censorship, exposing users to legal action.

Thus far, the Chinese authorities have not commented on Bing's apparent censorship.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to daniel.thorp-lancaster@futurenet.com.

16 Comments
  • I'm not a fan of censorship, but given that both Bing and Google routinely censor their services in both America and Europe I don't really see this as being a deal breaker for Bing. Bing is essentially following local laws, just as the do everywhere. A Chinese search engine in Europe would be required to censor far right imagery, sites that facilitate digital piracy, and would have to comply with the "right to be forgotten" laws. That same search engine would also have to comply with American laws to run in the US. Such as laws designed to protect children. It's a business decision, you want Chinese money you obey Chinese laws. Companies need to decide which they value more their morals or their bottom line. I don't personally agree with these laws and I would fight tooth an nail to stop similar laws bing put in place here. But I do agree that companies should respect local law or leave the market. FYI, China doesn't just censor political speech, it censors gambling, adult images, and site that promote things such as suicide, anorexia and self harm, and promoting junk food to kids. Things which many Americans have been campaigning for Google and Bing to censor as well in both America and Europe.
  • Why would this be a deal breaker for Bing? They haven't done anything questionable. They are banned by the Chinese government. It would be questionable if they bent to the rules that suppress opposition politics in a country in which they operate. They're not doing that, so they're blocked. Also, let's be frank, this isn't about "harmony", this is about maintaining the ruling party's control. Always has been. That's why censorship in the West is qualitatively and quantitatively different that censorship in countries with authoritarian regimes as mild as Singapore's. Your comparisons with the West aren't illuminating, they're obfuscating.
  • I meant that it wasn't a deal breaker for "me". It doesn't change my opinion of them because they already censor their services elsewhere. And it most certainly is about "harmony". Harmony is a very specific phrase that's often used in China. It doesn't mean what you obviously think that it means. Google Snow Crab and you will soon see. Essentially it means a lack of dissenting voices. A lot of the censorship in China isn't about authoritarianism, they have extremely different views about things such as gambling and adult content to people in the West. Right now, people in China are demanding significantly more censorship. Yes there is political suppression and human rights violations, but that's not particularly unique to China. China makes up 1/6th all of humanity. So at least 1/6th of all abuses of power will happen in China just for that reason alone. Western censorship is getting significantly worse. It's just different from Chinese censorship. Europe in particular is becoming increasingly authoritarian. They are talking about removing protection from service providers for content that users create. Soon, Google might be liable for displaying pictures of "that flag" from Germany in the 1930s in a search, and Facebook could soon be prosecuted for somebody's pro-suicide messages. Google's autosuggest function is heavily censored. There are all sorts of common searches that it won't suggest any more. I'm not saying that China isn't bad, I'm saying that it's in good company.
  • It's called a 'Swastika'. It's still okay to say it. We haven't been censored yet.
  • I'm pretty sure a lot of folks in China know how to use a vpn.
  • A lot of folks in China are actively calling for an increase in censorship. It's not often reported, but the Chinese tend to "prefer harmony over liberty". They take one look at our social media and see that it's awash with hate speech, videos encouraging self harm, "adult" content, and all manner of other things, and they want their own government to keep that kind of content off of the web. It's not just political content, radical veganism, faith based fundamentalism, even anti-gentrification, there is a strong movement in China - from the people - to crack down on anything that disturbs the social order. There are some hot-button issues, such as corruption and land reform that the people support, but even then they want limitations put on.
  • Do you know what they use a VPN for? World of Warcraft, and video streaming, mostly.
  • And nothing else? You sound awfully dismissive.
  • A VPN won't get you round a lot of Chinese censorship because the content is deleted at source. You can't VPN to a forum that's been deleted. Online gaming is also insanely popular in China, and I mean INSANELY. They use VPNs to get round geoblocking on US and European servers as a lot of popular online games don't have Chinese servers, or the Chinese servers offer versions of games that are censored for violence\nudity, or which restrict how long you can play on them. Yes, some people use VPNs to access political content, but a lot of that's not written in Chinese, and doesn't involve China, so there are fewer people who want to access it than who want to place fortnite.
  • It's funny that some people think China is anywhere near communist in its present state. It's just authoritarian neoliberal.
    Names can be deceptive. After all, North Korea calls itself the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea. Nothing democratic about it.
  • It's not really all that funny, the media constantly calls China Communist and makes it sound like it's the soviet Union form the 1970s. So people don't really know any better. In truth, china hasn't been communist since Deng instituted free market reforms in 1989, and even then China never really put in place actual communism. It just aspired towards certain aspects. China has such a low level of regulation, and such a low level of enforcement that it's much easier to set up a lot of types of business in China than it is in the US. Yes, it's authoritarian, but a lot of this authoritarianism has popular support, and there are calls for more censorship and more restrictions. If the Chinese people had their way the internet would be almost entirely PG rated. Then again, YouTube and google in general are starting to go that way in the US without government censorship.
  • I'm not sure we can really trust the suggestion of widespread popular support for censorship designed to reinforce party control in a country with already widespread censorship designed to reinforce party control ...
  • Except that the majority of the censorship in china has nothing to do with politics or party control. Politics is just one of many things that are censored. The irony is that calls for greater censorship is one of the things that is actually being censored on Chinese web forums. The Chinese government restricts any call from the people for reforms. The same censorship applies to calls to increase censorship as it does to tackle poor governance. Things that get censored include images of self harm, site about anorexia, people doing dangerous stunts. Things that people have wanted taken off of YouTube and Facebook in America for ages. If there is popular support for this in America, does it seem strange that there would also be popular support for them in China?
  • Its china.. Anyone doubting that this is bing's or whoevers fault, think again. Mass demand an increase in censorship due to their whacky conspiracy theories of the west wanting to control china. Its like watching an episode from Southpark
  • Something maybe not quite related to this news. If Bing left, it's more likely there's no search engine than only Baidu. Baidu recently show most of common search results (e.g., 80%~90%) from their own websites rather than other websites, and it's hard to say such product as search engine anymore. However, you can say that if average user already satisfy with the search result only from country-wise intranet, maybe they will also satisfy with the search result only from company-wise intranet.
  • For the most part, I think Bing is trash and don't think one should censor to appease a communist government... However, I do use bing rewards to get free Xbox Live Gold... so do as you please MS just don't mess with Bing Rewards.