China’s Search Engines Have More Than 66,000 Rules Controlling Content, Report Says

Internet censorship in China is well known, but a report quantifying its extent revealed more than 66,000 rules that control what content is available to people using search engines.

By at least one measure, the most diligent censorship is Microsoft’s Bing, the only foreign search engine operating in the country, according to a report released Wednesday by Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research group at the University of Washington. Toronto.

The findings suggested that China’s censorship machinery was not only more pervasive, but more sophisticated. Search engines, including Bing, are considered politically sensitive by either not providing results or restricting results to selected sources (usually government agencies or state-run news outlets following Communist Party policy) We created an algorithm to “heavy censor” searches.

“For very sensitive topics, you may not get any results, but if your query is subject to this kind of self-censorship, it actually looks like you’re getting results as usual, Not really,” says Jeffrey Knockel. He is a senior research scientist in the lab and the author of the report. “We only get results from his specific pre-approved website.”

Researchers at the organization investigated eight online platforms that offer search tools. Social media sites Weibo, Douyin, Bilibili, Baidu Zhidao. and e-commerce giant Jingdong.

All have long censored criminal activity, obscenity, pornography, violence, and gore, along with virtually any political, ethnic, or religious content deemed to threaten Communist Party rule and social stability. are subject to extensive legal restrictions.

Recent restrictions have ranged from defaming national heroes and martyrs, illegal surrogacy and misleading or false information about Covid-19 in Beijing.

Companies have created mechanisms to comply with ever-evolving government restrictions.

According to the report, China’s equivalent of Twitter, Weibo, has restricted search results for the term “Chinese spy balloon” and for those wanting to know about the surveillance airship shot down by the United States in February, China’s official We have made it so that only information from sources is displayed.

Baidu blocked all search results that included Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, and international arrest warrants for the Russian president.

According to the report, Chinese tech companies have adopted more rules than Bing, one of the few foreign technology platforms allowed in the country, but Bing’s rules are broader and more restrictive. had an impact on search results for It also restricts results from more domains on average.

Microsoft spokeswoman Caitlin Roulston said the company is reviewing the findings but has not yet fully analyzed them. “We are contacting Citizens Labs directly for more information so that we can conduct the necessary further investigation,” she said.

Microsoft acknowledges that it is one of the few foreign technology companies still doing business in China and that doing so requires complying with the country’s censorship laws, but others, notably Google, have is refusing.

The situation in China has often been difficult for Microsoft, with its products facing crackdowns from authorities. In 2019, Bing itself was temporarily blocked. In 2021, Microsoft shut down LinkedIn, where he spent seven years in China, citing regulatory and competitive obstacles.

Nockel said the study reinforced the argument that foreign tech companies can do little to limit censorship and other demands from governments. suggests limiting the

“Simply allowing U.S. tech companies to do business in China will not solve the censorship and larger human rights issues we want to solve in China,” Nockel said.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button