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Microsoft censors Bing searches for Tiananmen Square: study

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Microsoft censors suggestions on its Bing search engine for American users looking up Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Tiananmen Square protests’ “tank man” and other politically sensitive terms, in line with a recent study. 

While typing in a term like “Joe Biden” into Bing ends in a drop-down “autofill” box suggesting popular search options, Microsoft removed the box for American and Canadian users searching hot-button Chinese terms, researchers from Citizen Lab said

Other names allegedly censored by Bing include Li Wenliang, a doctor-turned-whistleblower in Wuhan who angered Chinese authorities by speaking out in regards to the severity of the coronavirus in early 2020; Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese billionaire affiliated with Trump adviser Steve Bannon; and Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, a key figure in Tibetan Buddhism who was kidnapped by Chinese authorities on the age of six. 

“We consistently found that Bing censors politically sensitive Chinese names over time, that their censorship spans multiple Chinese political topics, consists of at the very least two languages, English and Chinese, and applies to different world regions, including China, the USA, and Canada,” wrote the Citizen Lab researchers, who’re affiliated with the University of Toronto. 

Researchers say Microsoft censored the autofill box for American and Canadian users who typed in “tank man.”AP

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the corporate had addressed the difficulty, saying, “a small variety of users can have experienced a misconfiguration that prevented surfacing some valid autosuggest terms, and we thank Citizen Lab for bringing this to our attention.” 

The news underscores Microsoft’s extensive business in China. The tech giant employs hundreds of researchers within the country and is currently hiring up in the town of Suzhou for a secretive real estate team, The Post exclusively reported on Monday. 

Xi JinpingAmerican and Canadian users typing within the name of Chinese President Xi Jinping weren’t given autofill suggestions, researchers said. Xinhua/Sipa USA

The corporate has long considered cooperating with the Chinese government to be an inexpensive cost of doing business within the country. 

Until October 2021, Microsoft ran a censored version of careers site LinkedIn that had repeatedly obeyed government orders to take down posts from journalists, academics and other dissidents. 

After facing scrutiny from activists, Microsoft shut down LinkedIn China because of “greater compliance requirements” and said it will replace it with a recent careers site that doesn’t include the flexibility to share articles or make posts. 

As well as, Bing caught flak in 2021 when it censored images of the Tiananmen “tank man” within the US and Europe on the thirty second anniversary of the massacre. Microsoft attributed the censorship to “accidental human error.” 

Microsoft also removed the autofill feature from Bing in China last yr amid pressure in a move it said was required to comply with local laws.

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