Microsoft Report Says China Tops List of Censorship Requests

by Tracy Knauer •

China tops the list of governments that requested censorship of content from the Bing search engine and other Microsoft online platforms in 2015. That’s according to Microsoft’s latest Content Removal Requests Report.

The report, published last Wednesday, lists requests that Microsoft received during the first half of 2015 for removing content or disabling accounts in its products.

According to Microsoft, content removal requests are made by governments on the basis of “claims of violations of local laws or our terms of service.” The report does not define exactly which types of content Microsoft was asked to remove, but it does mention Bing search results several times.

The Chinese government issued 165 content removal requests in the first half of 2015, which accounted for 88 percent of the total during that period. The United States was second on the list, with 11 requests, or about 5 percent of the total.

Microsoft also indicated whether it had acted on the requests. In China’s case, it did so 88 percent of the time.  For all other countries on the list, the company responded to requests 100 percent of the time.

Although Microsoft did not say as much, the fact that it was less likely to respond to censorship requests from China may mean the company is somewhat selective in choosing which requests it believes are legitimate, as compared to its policies in other countries. Still, it’s clear that Microsoft acts on censorship requests in China in the vast majority of cases.

The report also says that Microsoft notifies users when content has been blocked from Bing search results. It does not mention notices about censorship of content in other Microsoft products.

While the report included a category for requests for account closures — presumably in products like Skype, which Microsoft now owns — it said that Microsoft had received no such requests from any country during the first half of 2015. Apparently governments were more interested in censoring search results than in preventing video conferencing.

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