Microsoft's Bing search engine inaccessible in China

Microsoft's Bing is blocked in China as tensions between Beijing and Washington escalate

Search engines are always a hot topic.

While China has remained tightlipped on why the search engine has mysteriously become inaccessible, it has happened surprisingly quickly after the leading (and Chinese government darling) Chinese search engine, Baidu, received a bit of a kicking over the quality of its service, according to a Reuters report.

Only users residing in China won't be able to access Chinese version of Bing.

While it's not yet known whether Bing would return in China at some point in the future, Microsoft's search engine joins a long list of services that are now banned in the country and which includes names like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have always been blocked by authorities using a censorship apparatus known as the "Great Firewall". Bing has been the only major foreign search engine accessible from within China's so-called Great Firewall.

For years, Microsoft's Bing search engine has been available in China, despite the country's strict online censorship.

The service was blocked on the instructions of the government, the Financial Times cited unidentified sources as saying.

"China has been aggressive in terms of controlling the media, "censorship" is kind of their middle name".

Users and observers were surprised by the outage, given that Microsoft censors its search results to meet Chinese regulations.

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But the analyst said it could also be a "hack gone wrong". Greatfire.org, a group that tracks which websites are blocked in China, pointed out that when China blocks a services, it takes some time for the blockade to spread across the country.

Chinese authorities have also cracked down on Virtual Private Networks, which allow users to skirt around the firewall.

"Our country is unbelievable, even the obedient Bing has been walled off, while Baidu flourishes", said another.

China has tightened policing of the internet in recent years, shuttering 26,000 "illegal" websites in 2018 alone and deleting 6 million online posts containing vulgar content, the official Xinhua news agency said earlier this month.

Google, Bing's competitor, withdrew from China in 2010 in opposition to its censorship rules after revealing it had been hacked by the government.

Microsoft didn't immediately respond to a request for comment but is reportedly investigating the matter.

Time will tell if the blocking proves to be permanent.

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