The average person relies heavily on search engines to fill their information meter on a daily basis. Sad to say, gone are the days when the go-to information sources are print newspapers and libraries; and although they still exist, search engines are the default now.

And, when it comes to search engines, we know that Google is at the top of the list – at least in terms of searches conducted. We still can’t discount Microsoft’s Bing. While it ranks number 5 (practically last in the list of high-impact search engines), it does have its fair share of users.

Is Microsoft Censoring Chinese Search Results in The US?

Now, Microsoft is facing accusations that they are censoring Chinese search results in the United States. As reported by CNET:

Bing allegedly delivers different results for English-language searches than for those in Chinese, The Guardian said on Tuesday. Run searches on such politically sensitive topics as the Dalai Lama, Falun Gong, and Tiananmen Square on Bing’s English-language site and its Chinese-language site, and the results vary, the report claimed.

We all know just how sensitive the Chinese government is when it comes to censorship and giving its citizens free access to information. The rest of the world is understandably against this policy, and tech companies have had to comply with Chinese rules when operating in the country. Some have even pulled out.

Applying Chinese-style censorship in the United States is a totally different story, of course; and these allegations can cause damage to Microsoft – which they could really do without.

The company has responded to the accusations, though, saying that it is a “system error” and not intentional censorship. CNET has also published Microsoft’s statement:

First, Bing does not apply China’s legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China. Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results removal notification for some searches noted in the report but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China.

Second, with regard to the freeweibo.com homepage being absent from Bing search results, our investigation indicates that at some time in the past the page was marked as inappropriate due to low quality or adult. After review, we have determined the page is acceptable for inclusion in global search results.

Bing aims to provide a robust set of high-quality, relevant search results to our users. In doing so, Bing has extremely high standards that respect human rights, privacy and freedom of expression.

Microsoft is a signatory to the Global Network Initiative, which is an effort by a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors, and academics to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy on the Internet. As part of our commitment to GNI, Microsoft follows a strict set of internal procedures for how we respond to specific demands from governments requiring us to block access to content. We apply these principles carefully and thoughtfully to our Bing version for the People’s Republic of China.

That’s a very well-written response, as one can only expect from such a company. The question is whether this is the truth or if there is something more than a “system error” going on here. What’s your opinion?

[Image via im9]