Microsoft is censoring from its search engine Bing—in the US—names of People’s Republic of China personnel that the PRC government doesn’t want easily searched on.
Bing’s autofill system, which offers guesses on what users are searching for after a few keystrokes, often fell silent in connection to names the Chinese government deems sensitive, Citizen Lab said in the report Thursday.
Citizen Lab found that in tests late last year, Bing wouldn’t surface autofill suggestions for search terms of the names of Chinese political dissidents and party leaders. Names—including those of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the deceased human-rights activist Liu Xiaobo—wouldn’t appear in the autofill system in English or Chinese.
“We consistently found that Bing censors politically sensitive Chinese names,” the report said.
A carefully anonymous Microsoft spokeswoman laid this censorship off to “technical error,” “a misconfiguration.”
If that’s true, what is Microsoft doing about their software testing personnel who failed to test this adequately?
This, though, isn’t Microsoft’s first “error” regarding censorship. They’ve been caught a number of times in such “configuration errors.”
Last year, on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, US-based searches on Bing for images and videos of “Tank Man”—a man who stood in front of a column of tanks following the massacre—didn’t show any results.
Of course, that was a technical error. But where were Microsoft’s software testers?
On the other hand, does our government really need to be contracting business with a nominally American enterprise that engages in such un-American behavior?