Microsoft’s Bing is available to mainland Chinese users again after being inaccessible since late Wednesday, assuaging concerns that the government was blocking the search engine.
“We can confirm that Bing was inaccessible in China, but service is now restored,” said a Microsoft spokesman, without specifying the reason why it was unavailable. A spokeswoman from China’s cyberspace authority did not reply to a request for comment on Thursday.
Checks by the Post showed Bing was accessible on some smartphones on the mainland since at least late Thursday afternoon. Earlier yesterday, attempts to open cn.bing.com, the company’s mainland-China hosted site, returned error messages, though Chinese users can still access Bing’s global site using a virtual private network, which circumvents China’s “Great Firewall” of censorship.
China blocks access to a large number of Western websites, including Facebook and Twitter, to restrict its citizens’ access to uncensored information. The last case involving a major Western internet site was in 2017, when Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service was blocked. While Microsoft’s rival Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010, Bing has continued to operate in the country.
The Financial Times reported on Thursday that Bing has been blocked in China following a government order, citing two sources familiar with the matter.
Bing was blocked in China due to an accidental technical error rather than an attempt at censorship, Bloomberg News reported, citing people it did not identify. The government had no intention to block Bing but it’s unclear when the service will be restored, according to the report.