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This Isn't the First Time Microsoft's Been Accused of Bing Censorship

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the I-can't-find-that-right-now dept.

Censorship 56

Nerval's Lobster writes "Microsoft has censored Chinese-language results for Bing users in the United States as well as mainland China, according to an article in The Guardian. But this isn't the first time that Bing's run into significant controversy over the 'sanitizing' of Chinese-language search results outside of mainland China. In November 2009, Microsoft came under fire from free-speech advocates after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof accused the company of 'craven kowtowing' to the mainland Chinese government by sanitizing its Chinese-language search results for users around the world. Just as with The Guardian and other news outlets this week, Microsoft insisted at the time that a 'bug' was to blame for the sanitized search results. 'The bug identified in the web image search was indeed fixed,' a Microsoft spokesperson told me in December 2009, after I presented them with a series of screenshots suggesting that the pro-Chinese-government filter remained in effect even after Kristof's column. 'Please also note that Microsoft 'recognize[s] that we can continue to improve our relevancy and comprehensiveness in these web results and we will.' Time will tell whether anything's different this time around."

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Bing? (5, Insightful)

niff (175639) | about 6 months ago | (#46235187)

Does anyone actually use it?

Fuck beta!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235215)

Sure. Billy and Monkey Boy do.

Re:Bing? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235219)

a dude i know bought a windows tablet, i was like who the fuck would do some shit like that?! but he was an unemployed pc technician so i guess he wasn't too bright.

Re:Bing? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235231)

They're trying to market it as a porn search tool.

Microsoft is old, desperate and busted.

Re:Bing? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235453)

Does anyone actually use it?

Hopefully not; Beta Is Not Good. If anyone actually does, they were most likely forced to use it.

Re:Bing? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235537)

The same idiots who thought Beta was a good idea. Thats why they werent able to find any criticism of it.

Re:Bing? (0)

rossdee (243626) | about 6 months ago | (#46235709)

Why did they name a search engine after the guy who sang White Christmas, and co-starred with Bob Hope?

Re:Bing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46237735)

They were originally going to call it "Bling" (have you seen that gaudy site?) but there was a typo in the memo about the name...

Re:Bing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235899)

no, but this explains why a billion people don't want to use Bing.

Re:Bing? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235939)

Bing is set as the default browser on a bunch of Windows systems in many countries. This has allowed Microsoft to leverage their illegal monopoly on PC desktop operating systems (as described in Judge Jackson's findings of fact [justice.gov] and confirmed by the US court of appeal) to break into a market where their product would have no chance otherwise. In the EU, there have been systems configured with a choice of browsers and search engines, however that is an exception. That's basically showing how much of a complete joke law enforcement against Microsoft is. Basically wait until they steal yet another market and then slap a "huge million dollar file" of a few points of a percent of their revenew from that one product on them.

YES! (2, Funny)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 6 months ago | (#46236029)

I always forget the url for downloading firefox. So I can then use firefox to download chrome. And from chrome opera. That I use because I got a note on "Opera Link" on how to setup lynx. From which I can read my gopher page on how to arrange the ethernet wires on my tongue to consume the raw data directly into my brain that runs DOS 1.0.

Re:Bing? (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 6 months ago | (#46236433)

Their porn results are really good.

Easy decision (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235251)

It's an easy decision really, don't use BING.

Bing? (5, Informative)

msobkow (48369) | about 6 months ago | (#46235273)

Why would anyone use Bing in the first place? It's results are very poor and scattered compared to Google, even on technical term searches that it should be able to do much better at.

Google stays ahead of the pack because they do a good job of search, not just because they're the most familiar name. Until Bing and others can do at least as well, I'll keep drinking the kool-aid.

Re:Bing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235313)

Have any recent examples? Most of my searches are effectively a wash when I try to compare the two.

Re:Bing? (1)

msobkow (48369) | about 6 months ago | (#46235403)

Documentation, mostly. For whatever perverse reason, Microsoft's Bing can't find squat when dealing with open source tools and competitor's technologies. It's particularly bad at locating pages in the Sybase ASE manuals, and the IBM DB/2 LUW manuals.

Re:Bing? (1, Informative)

Desler (1608317) | about 6 months ago | (#46235427)

That's funny.

First link searching "Sybase ASE Manual" on Bing: http://manuals.sybase.com/onli... [sybase.com]

Searching for "IBM DB/2 LUW manual" yielded:

https://www-304.ibm.com/suppor... [ibm.com]
https://www-304.ibm.com/suppor... [ibm.com]
http://www.ibm.com/support/doc... [ibm.com]

As the first three results.

Unless you're using a different Bing it seems what you claim is mostly bull.

Re:Bing? (4, Interesting)

Your.Master (1088569) | about 6 months ago | (#46235513)

You searched for the manuals, but not the pages inside of them, so your counterargument is irrelevant.

To be fair, I am not able to confirm or deny this about these manuals, but I've had similar problems with other technical documentation. If I were just looking for the main site I'd be fine, but the main site has 100 MB of data and bizarrely, every site in the world seems to be significantly worse with its inline search than either Google or Bing, even if they are theoretically powered by Google or Bing (not clear on why). The sybase one seems to roll its own internal search, which has awful presentation at least, and I didn't see an inline search on IBM either.

Re:Bing? (3, Interesting)

bberens (965711) | about 6 months ago | (#46235697)

I find Bing is quite adequate and sometimes better for random queries about facts for non-technical questions. As a general rule if I'm querying about something technical I will find the results faster on Google. I fully recognize that this may be learned behavior on my part.. that through experience I know exactly the key word combinations I need to feed google to get the results I'm looking for. Additionally, I find Bing Maps to be equally good for the user and much better as the developer. However, based on the other "stuff" in the Google ecosystem I can't be fussed to switch. I use Google maps on Android, therefore I use Google maps on the desktop. I use Google Docs because it's free (and cheap for my business). I buy all my music through the play store, I watch lots of youtube content, etc. Even if Bing search was better than Google search in every way, it would have to be better *enough* to get me to break outside of the Google ecosystem. It's definitely not.

Re:Bing? (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#46236093)

The funny thing was back when Windows Phone 7 came out, Bing couldn't even find the developer kit/documentation. I had to use Google to find things on Microsoft's own website. I think they've fixed that since then, though.

Re:Bing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235325)

Image search is slightly better and the porn preview.... I mean the 30 second clips of videos it may have...I mean that's what a friend told me....Truthfully I just search with it to get discounts on xbox live.

Re:Bing? (0)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 6 months ago | (#46235371)

"Why would anyone use Bing in the first place?"

Dictionary: "Bing is a wheat flour-based Chinese food with a flattened or disk-like shape"

Maybe the name Bing sounds like it should be a very familiar and Chinese-friendly search engine.

Maybe Chinese people feel uncomfortable with scary American names like "Yahoo!".

Perhaps, most Chinese people have a friend named Bing?

Re:Bing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46237075)

Yahoo is not an American, it's a name invented by an Irish author...
Also note that most Chinese people can't really be bothered by Bing, Yahoo, duckduckgo or whatever for they use mostly Baidu (though google has some success)

Anyway, I don't really understand your message: was it a stupid racist joke or was there something more subtle I didn't get?

Google is owned by the NSA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235387)

figuratively, and quite possibly literally.

Re:Bing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235421)

Technical queries are the opposite of what Bing is best at. Bing generally targets the most heavily queried things like weather, location based queries, sports, entertainment, etc. and is worse with long-tail queries (ie. almost anything technical). I suppose Bing is also good at queries like "integral of x" as it integrates with wolframalpha.

Re:Bing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46235491)

Google stays ahead of the pack because they do a good job of search, not just because they're the most familiar name.

Search engines learn from user clicks. Being at the top creates a feedback loop that ensures Google stays at the top.

Re:Bing? (3, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46235571)

As much as I'd like to see MS die a slow painful corporate death due to its past greedy manipulation of "standards", we don't want a search monopoly either (in Google).

I hate to say it, but I hope Bing stays alive in some form.

What an idiotic statement (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 6 months ago | (#46236045)

So you think that competition in the market is effective if the competition is totally useless and unused?

Competition in the market is about HEALTHY competition, strong rivals competing. Not one towering giant and a whimpering mouse. Google right now has an effective search monopoly NOT because it is only player but because its competition is feeble.

Are you also so delusional that you think a hobby garage turning out 3 roadsters per year is competition against say Ford? No. Volkswagen is competition against Ford (and car nuts, if they are the same company, I don't give a fuck).

Android is competition against iOS. WP is competition against neither. OSX is competition against Windows, ReactOS isn't.

Competition in the market is about forcing the companies to react and adapt to each other. A giant does not react or adapt to an ant. Neither does it step on it, it is just completely oblivious to it. That is NOT what competition is about. Or I am competing against Uwe Boll. I do the mile at least once a day. Those trips to the fridge add up and it might take me a couple of hours but hey, I am competing!

Re:What an idiotic statement (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46239539)

I believe you are exaggerating. Microsft has found ways to trick a fair amount of Wintel users into using Bing. (I'm not condoning their methods, only addressing the market-share issue here.)

Further, weak competition is better than no competition. Strong competition is better than weak competition, but if that's not available than weak competition is the next best thing, and still better than no competition.

You seem to be arguing that weak competition is just as bad as no competition, which I reject.

Re:Bing? (4, Interesting)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 6 months ago | (#46235653)

To have an unbiased opinion, you really should have your search plugin randomized. Organically, you will notice one is better. Or maybe they have different strengths depending on subject.

I don't know anyone who can speak to that honestly, and usually people who say one search is better are just better trained to use it vs. others.

I know how to modify a Google search with "wrong" words to make it find what I'm after, so it works better. Bing is at least slightly different, so if my search didn't work I'm stuck. That means I'm better at Google, not that Google is better at me.

And the more they tweak, the less of an edge I have. Some day I expect it will be a tie, especially when they track which results get clicked to determine which results to show. People don't know if it is worth clicking until after, not before the click.

No, not just training (4, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46235721)

I don't know anyone who can speak to that honestly, and usually people who say one search is better are just better trained to use it vs. others.

Every now and then, I switch to Bing for a few weeks.

I don't really want to use Google, I like to even things out and not give Google all of the valuable data about search and search results preferences.

But, I can say with certainty, Google is simply better. At least a few times a day when I've switched to Bing as a default engine, I have to load Google to actually find what I want.

It's true of programming (as you'd expect) but also true of photography, travel, and random other categories of things.

At the moment, Google simply is noticeably better than anyone else. Which is why I switch back, because at some point you just need to use tools that work well for a while.

Re:Bing? (1)

Wootery (1087023) | about 6 months ago | (#46236917)

To have an unbiased opinion, you really should have your search plugin randomized. Organically, you will notice one is better.

Err, [wikipedia.org] no [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Bing? (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about 6 months ago | (#46237509)

We have Bing as the default search engine on our browsers at work and I can't change it. I'm constantly having to manually bring up a google search page because on every third or fourth thing I search Bing doesn't cut it. I see a "big" difference in the two but really I don't care that much what other people use. If you like Bing better then have at it. Your pain isn't my pain.

Re:Bing? (2)

X0563511 (793323) | about 6 months ago | (#46238027)

I don't use Bing. Not because of it's results, or how it looks - simply because it's Microsoft.

Shallow? Perhaps... but it's my own opinion and I'm allowed to have it. :)

Re:Bing? (1)

swillden (191260) | about 6 months ago | (#46238075)

Some day I expect it will be a tie, especially when they track which results get clicked to determine which results to show.

They've been tracking which results get clicked and using that to help evaluate result quality since the very beginning. The big indicator isn't what people click, it's what people click last, since presumably that click got them what they needed. Of course, it could also be that they gave up, or ran out of time, or something else so "last click" isn't a perfect indicator of success, but it's useful.

Personally, I doubt that it will ever be a tie. Google has the bigger and better search engine development team, and they continue pushing the boundaries, with Bing always lagging. I think the only thing that could change this is if someone on the Bing team came up with a truly revolutionary advance in ranking, on the order of the level of improvement that PageRank provided over the approaches then in use by Lycos, Altavista, etc. (which, if you remember, were so poor that many people thought that Yahoo!'s giant hand-curated directory approach was always going to be better than searching). But there is so much research going on in that space, by so many smart people, that I don't think there are many such revolutions available... and as often happens in areas of focused research, when the big jumps come they tend to be discovered by many people simultaneously, because the foundations for noticing the next big idea are in place.

My prediction is that Google will continue being somewhat better than Bing, even as both of them continue improving over all. Occasionally the gap may widen or close a bit, but I doubt Bing will ever equal Google.

Of course, since I work for Google, I may be biased. But I think I'm objective, for whatever that's worth (note that I don't work on search).

Re:Bing? (1)

Ravaldy (2621787) | about 6 months ago | (#46239201)

You're right but women in our office all prefer bing for the nice daily background they get from it. Most of the women in the office our knowledgeable enough to switch to google if they aren't happy with the results.

Re:Bing? (1)

sjames (1099) | about 6 months ago | (#46249085)

The really sad part is that I tested Bing vs. Google on search terms suggested in Bing commercials and Bing still lost.

For example, 'coffee'. Bing gave me all the Starbucks in the area (closest one 10 miles) but ignored a really nice local coffee shop (4 miles away) that I prefer and several others, all closer than the nearest Starbucks.

I guess when they made the commercials they should have used some sort of search engine to find terms where Bing was better than Google.

Malevolence or Mediocrity? (1)

hbo (62590) | about 6 months ago | (#46235311)

Two roughly similar problems over 5 years might lead you to suppose they did this out of malevolence. But let's look at the value proposition. Bing Lord 1: Let's censor all Chines language results to please our Mainland Chinese overlords! Bing Lord 2: Good idea! They'll appreciate it if we solve a problem we already solved for them. Bing Lord 1: Yes! In the meantime we'll piss off everybody else who gets wind of it, and get lots of free publicity from the ensuing shit storm! Both: We are incredibly smart! It seems more likely to me that this is the result of bungling at one or more points in the chain from design to infrastructure, probably caused by managerial bungling.

the mainland Chinese government (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 6 months ago | (#46235473)

That's pretty sanitized, as opposed to People's Republic of China - a reminder that they are, in fact a totalitarian oligarchy (remembering that "few" in 1,360 million is in absolute terms quite a lot).

Re:the mainland Chinese government (2)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 6 months ago | (#46235557)

Authoritarian, yes. Totalitarian, no. Words mean things, and these two things are not the same thing at all.

Not sure what you mean by "sanitised". I think you are picking at a nit that doesn't really exist---a bit like that poster who got bent out of shape a few days ago over some imaginary political implications of using "The Ukraine" vs "Ukraine" as if the former hadn't been the norm for centuries in English usage up until about 20 years ago.

Re:the mainland Chinese government (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 6 months ago | (#46235685)

Authoritarian, yes. Totalitarian, no.

After reading more, I agree: the PRC is Authoritarian.

these two things are not the same thing at all.

Hmmm. They're pretty damned similar.

Not sure what you mean by "sanitised".

You're presumably a smart guy for saying "words mean things". Soft-soap the name of the government for long enough, and people forget what it is.

Re:the mainland Chinese government (1)

_merlin (160982) | about 6 months ago | (#46236459)

There are two governments that claim to be the legitimate government of all of China: one located on the mainland, and one located in Taiwan. Simple as that. There's a similar situation in Korea, where two governments claim to be the legitimate government of all of Korea. Do you call them North/South Korea, or do you make a point of saying DPKR/RoK? Do you call Taiwan RoC for that matter?

Re:the mainland Chinese government (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 6 months ago | (#46237995)

There are two governments that claim to be the legitimate government of all of China: one located on the mainland, and one located in Taiwan.

But only one of them is on the mainland. So maybe "the writer" has pro-Nationalist sympathies... ;)

Desperation (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46235549)

MS seems desperate for search market-share. Knowing this, the Eastern Devil likely made them a deal.

Re:Desperation (1)

mSparks43 (757109) | about 6 months ago | (#46236057)

And the result is the best search engine for porn.

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And Google doesn't censor? Right. (2, Insightful)

Powercntrl (458442) | about 6 months ago | (#46235823)

Google's and Bing's image search return completely different photos with "safe search" disabled. Of course, Google's explanation is that you have to explicitly search using pornographic terms if you want porn to be included in the results. IMHO, their image search censorship makes their results broken, since they do not accurately depict the content of the Internet (which we all know, is for porn [youtube.com] ).

Sure, it sounds like I'm a troll spouting a line of scroogled pro-Microsoft BS, but I honestly just feel it's a sad state of affairs for online freedom when Microsoft is the company with the balls to let people search for fapping material and Apple actually sees something wrong with letting a mobile app developer have access to every piece of personal information on your phone.

'craven kowtowing' (0)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 6 months ago | (#46235953)

Yeah, and I'm Craven Moorehead...

Jeeze! In business you're either going to kowtow, or you will be shutdown and/or possibly arrested. Take your pick.

wait a minute.... (1)

The_Revelation (688580) | about 6 months ago | (#46236067)

How is it that Microsoft has the technical know how to sanitize chinese searches, yet not sanitize the english ones of blatant porn?

The opposite of news? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#46236549)

This Isn't the First Time Microsoft's Been Accused of Bing Censorship

This is the sort of thing you'd expect as a footer to an article on the current accusation. It's not really news in itself, unless it went unreported at the time (which it didn't).

And Can We Drop the Gratuitous and Arbitrary Capitalisation?

Re:The opposite of news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46236767)

And Can We Drop the Gratuitous and Arbitrary Capitalisation?

You want to break with the tradition of capitalizing words in titles? It may be gratuitous and arbitrary but at least it follows an established protocol.

What kind of monster are you?

A few facts ... (3, Informative)

jamesl (106902) | about 6 months ago | (#46236871)

There has been discussion over the past day or so that Bing results for Chinese language queries done outside of China are somehow intentionally edited or incomplete for political censoring purposes. We can emphatically confirm that they are not. The only time Bing adjusts search results is to comply with local law or for quality or safety reasons such as child abuse or malware. Bing search results outside of China are not subject to and are not modified in any way based on Chinese law.

The error we referenced yesterday was one where we incorrectly showed a Chinese âremoval notificationâ(TM) message outside of China to users who have selected to view Bingâ(TM)s People Republic of China version. This message was displayed outside of China with this PRC version of Bing where results were suppressed for any reason (child abuse content, spam, etc.). Again, the search results outside of China were unaltered, and were not censored.

We understand that with casual inspection, users may be concerned about censorship when seeing the âremoval notificationâ(TM) message intended for users in China and some difference in results between Chinese language and English language searches, but again we can confirm this is not the case. The wrong notification message is simply being displayed in limited circumstances, and we are in the process of fixing that issue.

It has been noted that some popular sites such as Facebook are at times not shown in China. The fact that results from such sites are shown in Bing outside of China when using the Chinese language is an easy way for anyone to quickly reassure themselves that the results are not being censored.
The reason results are different for Chinese and English queries however, is because searches in different languages are fundamentally different queries. A result may show lower in one language versus another for a variety of reasons, such as fewer users choosing that link in English results compared to users who searched in another language. As always, however, we are constantly evaluating how to deliver the best results to our customers around the world.

- Stefan Weitz, Senior Director, Bing

http://www.bing.com/blogs/site... [bing.com]

And no, I don't work for Microsoft.

MS might be censoring Bing but that is nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46237453)

I have been censoring 100% of Bing content ... I don't use it.

Bing will never be relevent (1)

Patent Lover (779809) | about 6 months ago | (#46237725)

Nobody's ever going to say "you should Bing that".

tumblr censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46237911)

when is someone going to complain about tumblr? search in the tumblr app yields different results than when you use their website. cant search for porn in their app.

what the heck does bill gates care?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46238077)

What the fricken hell does Bill "Shoddymaster" Gates care, hes 'got his' and couldnt give a rats rectum about freedom for anyone else.

Same type of people run that company.

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