Microsoft Bing blocked in China, causing complaints

by JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writer

The Microsoft Corp. Bing application is seen with other mobile applications on a smartphone in Beijing, Thursday, January 24, 2019. (AP Photo / Andy Wong)

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese Internet users lost access to Microsoft's Bing search engine for two days, prompting complaints about the growing online censorship of the Communist Party.

Microsoft Corp. said Friday that access had been restored. A brief statement gave no reason for the interruption or other details.

Comments on social networks had accused regulators of strangling access to information. Others complained that they were forced to use Chinese search engines that, they say, yielded poor results.

"Why can not we choose what we want to use?" He said a comment signed by Aurelito in the Sina Weibo microblogging service.

Bing complied with government censorship rules by excluding foreign websites that are blocked by Chinese filters from search results. But the government of President Xi Jinping has constantly reinforced control over online activity.

The agency that imposes online censorship, China Cyberspace Administration, did not respond to questions sent by fax.

China has by far the largest population of Internet users, with some 800 million people online, according to government data.

The Communist Party encourages the use of the Internet for business and education, but blocks access to foreign websites run by news organizations, human rights and Tibet activists and others considered subversive.

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has promoted the notion of "Internet sovereignty" or the right of Beijing and other governments to dictate what their audiences can do and see online.

Chinese filters block access to global social networks, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Officials argue that services that operate beyond their control represent a threat to national security.

The Xi government has also reinforced controls over the use of virtual private network technology that can evade its filters.

The Google unit of Alphabet Inc. operated a search engine in China until 2010 that excluded the blocked sites from the results. The company closed that after the attacks of piracy destined to rob the source code of Google and to accede to the electronic mail accounts they were traced until China.

That has helped Chinese competitors like the search engine to flourish. But Baidu has been plagued by repeated complaints that too many search results are irrelevant or paid advertising.

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