US Senator calls on Microsoft to withdraw Bing from China over censorship concerns

US Senator Warner argues that US companies should not be facilitating Chinese censorship and that Bing should follow other companies in pulling out of China.

Logo, windows, green, yellow,

US Senator Mark Warner urges Microsoft to reconsider its presence in China, particularly its Bing search engine, following revelations of censorship practices catering to the Chinese government’s demands. Warner emphasised that facilitating censorship contradicts fundamental US values of freedom of speech and urged Microsoft to follow the lead of other US companies that have withdrawn from China due to human rights concerns.

In response, a Microsoft spokesperson defended Bing’s operations in China, stating that it complies with narrow legal orders for censorship but strives to provide access to information within the confines of Chinese law. Despite criticisms, Microsoft views its presence in China as an opportunity to provide accessible information, even if it means adhering to censorship regulations.

Critics argue that Microsoft’s compliance with Chinese censorship undermines its commitment to human rights and democratic values, as outlined in its corporate policies. Internal complaints within the company highlight ethical dilemmas associated with operating in countries with authoritarian regimes, where compliance with local laws may conflict with broader corporate values.

Research conducted by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab revealed that while Bing has less overall censorship than China’s domestic search engine, Baidu, it censors political and religious topics more aggressively. This finding challenges the notion that North American companies infringe less on Chinese users’ human rights than their domestic counterparts.

The consequences of China’s strict internet regulations are evident on platforms like Bing, where Chinese citizens are restricted from accessing vast amounts of information without using tools like virtual private networks (VPNs). Despite claims of a ‘free and open’ internet by the Chinese Embassy in Washington, intentional censorship of online content by foreign companies, like Microsoft, contributes to Chinese authorities’ control of online discourse.