Microsoft's upcoming deal with Chinese search firm Baidu to have Bing power English-powered search in China may add some revenue to Microsoft's bottom line --- but it makes Microsoft a willing partner in abetting China's strict Internet censorship. The deal is wrong and Microsoft should abandon it.
Baidu has 80% of the search engine market in China, IDG reports, and adds that "Better English-language results through Bing may boost its share even higher."
Exact terms of the deal weren't disclosed. But one thing is certain: Microsoft will continue to censor search results for the authoritarian regime as part of the arrangement. Reuters notes that Bing:
"filters out results in China relating to controversial subjects, such as political dissidents, Taiwan or pornography, to be able to operate in the country."
The New York Times adds that Bing's:
"new English-language search results will undoubtedly be censored, since Beijing maintains strict controls over Internet companies and requires those operating on the mainland to censor results the government deems dangerous or troublesome, including references to human rights issues and dissidents."
Microsoft, responding to the Times' questions about censorship, gave the paper this mealy-mouthed response:
"Microsoft respects and follows laws and regulations in every country where we run business. We operate in China in a manner that both respects local authority and culture and makes clear that we have differences of opinion with official content management policies."
Some laws, of course, should not be respected and followed --- notably extreme censorship. And as for having a "difference of opinion" about "content management policies," given that Microsoft acts as China's willing censor, that "difference of opinion" is entirely meaningless.
Google refuses to censor search results, and as a result pulled out of mainland China. The company did the right thing, putting morality above profits. Microsoft should follow suit and do the same.
This story, "Microsoft, China Search Deal a Win for Censorship" was originally published by Computerworld.