MICROSOFT HAS confirmed that its search engine, Bing, has been blocked in China.
The site went offline at around midnight last night, after what appears to be a decision from the Chinese Government to restrict access behind the so-called "Great Firewall" which ‘protects' citizens from "un-Chinese" content.
The move comes as something as surprise to observers - Bing has long cooperated with Chinese laws and self-censored its search to comply. As such, what has triggered the move is something of a mystery, but sources at the Financial Times suggest a government order was sent to at least one of China's biggest telecom providers telling them to ban the Bing.
Microsoft confirmed that it was "engaged to determine next steps" suggesting that it isn't entirely clear what has happened either.
China has been going through something of a hard-line crackdown in recent months, partly spurred on by the trade war between it and the US. The Chinese government seems to be pushing a "China First" maxim in the tech sector, to counter the "America First" attitude of The White House.
The news comes as a warning shot for other players in the industry which rely on the Chinese market. After a much publicised pushback by employees, Google is keeping its toe out of Chinese waters, but Apple's iPhone is a huge status symbol in the country, whilst Microsoft has other irons in the fire in China, including LinkedIn, which is also operating at a censored level to appease law makers.
It's a significant year for China, as this year marks both the 70th anniversary of the country's founding as a republic, and the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square clashes.
It would be true to form if a crackdown, to weed out potential dissidents was taking place pre-emptive to these events in an attempt to maintain order and control.
How Bing fits into all this is anyone's guess right now, but we hope the Chinese authorities will state their position. We'll let you know if they do. μ
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