China imposes it's own view on maps

Xinhua is reporting that China has launched a nationwide campaign to eliminate illegal online mapping services, with the country’s mapping bureau calling for the punishment of violators. Does this mean that foreign run map websites will be gradually shut down? We are monitoring the situation, of course. You can keep track of mainland access to various map websites listed to the left.

As our monitoring shows, no map website is currently blocked. Yellow ones symbolize slow access, but that is common among many foreign websites when acccessed in China. However, as has been demonstrated in the past with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc, websites can be closed down at any time.

Why would China close down maps?

Government decisions, be they concerning the GFW (Great Firewall) or otherwise, are always something of a mystery and we can only come up with educated guesses as to the motivation behind. In the case of maps there are several possibilities. There's the general protectionist argument, whereby the government is officially promoting stability while in practice only benefiting local web companies. There's also the special territorial issue - especially the question of Taiwan and whether or not it belongs to China. Google Maps, for example, illustrates China and Taiwan, as well as Hong Kong and Macau, as different countries whereas Baidu 地图 does not (Baidu actually doesn't include any other country than China).

Let us know what you think by participating in our poll below, and check back in the future to see whether any map websites get closed down.

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Wed, Mar 19, 2014

Bing Bests Baidu Censorship

Abstract

Independent research from Xia Chu has shown that, in addition to non-China content, Bing censors a vast amount of content that is hosted inside China and which is not censored by China-based internet companies like Baidu. After communicating our issues with Microsoft, Bing removed certain censorship rules (kudos to Bing), but much work remains to be done.

We recently called for Microsoft to release its transparency report for Bing (as have others - full disclosure, Rebecca sits on our advisory board).  Microsoft has yet to respond to this request. But Xia’s independent research of Bing’s China censorship policy could be regarded as a de facto transparency report for the search engine.

In this thorough study, the results of which we have verified, Xia examined Bing's SERP (search engine results page) for over 30,000 sensitive and nonsensitive query terms, and launched these queries from both inside and outside of China. Comparing and examining these results, plus querying with special search operators, reveals unprecedented detail on Bing's China filtering practices.

The main findings from Xia’s research include:

  • Bing has a list of “forbidden” terms where no results are shown. 139 such terms have been identified.

  • Bing has a blacklist of websites that it never shows to China users. 329 such websites are identified. (5 have been lifted after our communication with Microsoft.)

Thu, Feb 13, 2014

Setting Bing's Broken Record Straight

We can also now trace complicit Bing Chinese censorship back to 2009 as highlighted by Nicholas Kristof. It looks like Microsoft has indeed changed its censorship mechanism after our research made headlines this week. But Bing is still seriously flawed on two fronts: its algorithm favors pro-Chinese government websites by default on all search terms in simplified Chinese and their front end mistakenly delivers explicit censorship of search results on some search terms for users from all over the world.

Wed, Feb 12, 2014

No error here: Microsoft deploying Chinese censorship on global scale

Microsoft says: “The results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China”. This is simply not true.

Tue, Feb 11, 2014

Bing practicing Chinese censorship globally

Our latest research indicates that Microsoft’s search engine Bing is censoring English and Chinese language search on its home page in order to exclude certain results. We have also noticed that Bing is practicing subtle censorship with search results. In both instances, Bing is filtering out links and stories that the Chinese authorities would deem damaging.

Thu, Jan 23, 2014

Massive blocking of foreign media in China

After Tuesday’s report Leaked Records Reveal Offshore Holdings of China’s Elite by ICIJ, China blocked a number of major newspaper websites. All websites below were blocked after publishing copies of the original report. They're all listed as the publishing partners for “Chinaleaks” stories on ICIJ's website. The Great Firewall rarely blocks non-Chinese websites. Many of them have published the Chinese version of the report which probably explains the unusual development.

Newspaper

Main Language

Article

http://www.icij.org

English

Chinese

http://www.theguardian.com

English

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