Bing China freezes auto-suggestions at Beijing's request

There's nothing like a bit of good ol' filial piety

Everyone's favorite search engine (no, the other one) is caving to pressure and turning off suggestion algorithms for Chinese users.

Microsoft has disabled Bing's auto-suggest functionality at the behest of Beijing, from where the Chinese Communist Party has waged war on algorithms since last year. Microsoft announced the suspension on its local Chinese website, and Chinese users reported noticing changes this past Saturday. 

This isn't the first time the Chinese government and Microsoft have faced off over Bing's auto-suggestion algorithm. The South China Morning Post reported an identical request last December, the only difference being the length of time China wanted the feature turned off: 30 days then, and just a week now. 

China's beef with algorithms appears to be all about state control: Algorithms don't just promote good stuff that makes people happy. Bad use of algorithms, China's State Information Office said (translated automatically), "affects the normal communication order, market order and social order, posing challenges to maintaining ideological security, social fairness and justice and the legitimate rights and interests of netizens." 

The Middle Kingdom's stated goal is to create strong governance mechanisms and a regulatory system ensuring ethical use of tech. Algorithms that follow positive ecological practices isn't bad, either.

Unfortunately, the application of said rules may have been a bit more heavy-handed. SCMP also reported on Chinese algorithm regulations enacted in January 2022 that took effect on March 1st, which it cites as a possible cause for Bing's suggestion freeze.

The new algorithm regulation directs app operators that make extensive use of algorithms (Bing, Alibaba, and a whole host of social networking sites were affected) to use them to allow users to opt out of personalizations, while also ensuring they "promote positive energy."

Bing is one of the only US internet services openly allowed into China, with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others being blocked by the Middle Kingdom's Great Firewall (accessible only via VPNs), and some (like Yahoo) closing up shop due to increasingly hostile regulations and business difficulties associated with them.

On its Chinese-facing website, Bing said it "remains committed to respect[ing] the rule of law and users' right to access information and to help users find information to the greatest extent feasible under applicable laws." 

Microsoft didn't elaborate on how or why China took the action, whether it had violated any laws or was preemptively asked to cease service, or to what end it had paused the services for such a short period. Additional questions to Microsoft were unanswered at the time of publication. ® 

Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022