Tag Archives: search results

Bing censors Chinese-language search results in the U.S., Microsoft cries ‘error’

Bing censors Chinese-language search results in the U.S., Microsoft cries ‘error’
Eric Blattberg / VentureBeat

The Great Firewall of China is affecting Bing searches here in the United States.

The Chinese government is known for suppressing “injurious” information within its own borders, but it appears its rigorous standards apply to Chinese-language Bing users elsewhere, too.

Anti-censorship campaigners at FreeWeibo discovered the U.S. version of Bing serves up wildly disparate search results for controversial topics like the Dalai Lama, the Tiananmen Square incident, and software that enables Internet users to circumvent government censorship in China. (Censorship blog Greatfire.org posted a roundup of the results.)

When VentureBeat searched Bing for the Dalai Lama in English, the first result was his official site, followed by news about the Dalai Lama and two related Wikipedia entries. In Chinese, however, a search for the Dalai Lama (达赖喇嘛) returned multiple entries from Baidu Baike, China’s heavily censored Wikipedia rival, followed by informative about a documentary by CCTV, China’s state-owned television broadcaster. Unlike the English search, the Chinese results didn’t include images on the main page.

A Chinese-language search for the Dalai Lama in the U.S.

A Chinese-language search for the Dalai Lama in the U.S.

Microsoft has attributed some issues to an “error in [its] system,” but simultaneously denied altering its search results outside China.

“First, Bing does not apply China’s legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China,” reads a statement from Bing senior director Stefan Weitz provided to Engadget. “Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results removal notification for some searches noted in the report, but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China.”

Inside China, Microsoft alters its search results to serve the government’s interests. Bing isn’t popular in the country, but Microsoft is currently hiring 1,000 new employees to build up its presence in China.

VentureBeat has reached out to the Bing team for comment.

[Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story asserted that Google also censors its search results in China. That is inaccurate; in early 2010, Google announced it was no longer willing to censor searches in China and would pull out of the country completely if necessary. China condemned the decision and blocked many of Google’s services.]

Update (9:25 AM pacific): A Bing representative replied with the aforementioned statement from Weitz. We’ve included his full comments below.

We’ve conducted an investigation of the claims raised by Greatfire.org. 

First, Bing does not apply China’s legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China. Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results removal notification for some searches noted in the report but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China. 

Second, with regard to the freeweibo.com homepage being absent from Bing search results, our investigation indicates that at some time in the past the page was marked as inappropriate due to low quality or adult content. After review, we have determined the page is acceptable for inclusion in global search results. 

Bing aims to provide a robust set of high-quality, relevant search results to our users. In doing so, Bing has extremely high standards that respect human rights, privacy and freedom of expression. 

Microsoft is a signatory to the Global Network Initiative, which is an effort by a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy on the Internet. As part of our commitment to GNI, Microsoft follows a strict set of internal procedures for how we respond to specific demands from governments requiring us to block access to content. We apply these principles carefully and thoughtfully to our Bing version for the People’s Republic of China.

– Stefan Weitz, Bing senior director


Google Destroys Rap Genius’ Search Rankings As Punishment For SEO Spam, But Resolution In Progress


Posted 3 hours ago by (@joshconstine)
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Google hit back hard today after it learned lyrics site Rap Genius had been using dubious SEO tricks to attain top spots in search results. Now RapGenius.com doesn’t appear on the first page of results for a search of “Rap Genius,” and popular queries like “Jay-Z Holy Grail Lyrics” don’t bring up the startup like they used to. [Update: But the two companies are working on a resolution.]

Founded in 2009, Rap Genius is a lyrics and text annotation site. It lets users provide their own explanations for song lyrics, religious texts, legal documents, images, and more that other users see when they hover over snippets of text hosted on the site. The startup lept into the limelight when it received a massive $15 million investment led by Andreessen Horowitz in late 2012.

Known for their foul mouths and outrageous behavior, the Rap Genius founders had been riding high over the last year as their site climbed to prominent and lucrative slots in Google search results. For a sense of how ridiculous these guys are, check out our onstage talk at TechCrunch Disrupt NY where founder Mahbod Moghadam apologizes for telling Mark Zuckerberg to “suck his d*ck”.

Rap Genius Announces News Genius at Disrupt NY

But earlier this week, Rap Genius invited bloggers to join its “Rap Genius Blog Affiliate” program. John Marbach, the founder of email filtering startup Glider, emailed in asking for details, and Rap Genius offerered to tweet links to his blog in exchange for him placing a series of links to Rap Genius’ Justin Bieber lyrics on his blog. The links were designed to trick Google into giving Rap Genius better result rankings on searches for lyrics to songs from Bieber’s new album — sure to be popular searches this season.


Marbach then revealed Rap Genius’ unscrupulous tactics by publishing the email it sent him in a widely read blog post, prompting Google’s webspam czar Matt Cutts to announce on Hacker News, ”We’re investigating this now.” Rap Genius apologized in an open letter to Google, asking for the entire lyrics site category to be examined, implying shady SEO tactics were common amongst its competitors.

Rap Genius Search Results

That apology doesn’t seem to have gotten it very far, as Google this morning practically swept Rap Genius out of its search results. Previously, Rap Genius was appearing at the top or close to the top of search results for queries of popular rap songs and the word “lyrics,” for example “Kanye West Flashing Lights Lyrics.” It would even sometimes appear high in simple searches for artist and song names.

Now, you won’t find Rap Genius for that query until the fifth page of results, likely further than anyone would look. For evidence of how serious the punshment is, adding “Rap Genius” to the end of that query actually makes Rap Genius appear even deeper down the results on the sixth page.

And just to make sure it was clear, Google banished RapGenius.com to the bottom of the sixth page of results of searches for “Rap Genius.”

Becoming practically unsearchable could be a huge hit to Rap Genius’ business, which depends on Google search referral traffic. Without that traffic, it will be much harder to grow its user base, collect new annotations, and potentially monetize with ads down the road.

Whether Google’s reaction was too tough is a matter of opinion. Gaming search results with spammy SEO tactics is certainly deplorable, but wiping Rap Genius off of top result pages for queries that include its own name is pretty harsh. Whether the startup deserves it or should get a lighter punishment depends on your perspective regarding the sanctity of Google search results. We’re awaiting a response from the Rap Genius founders, and have been promised a statement shortly.

Update: Rap Genius’ founders have provided this statement, indicating they’re working with Google on being returned to better search result rankings:

8698091273_475f659390_c“We are working with Google right now to resolve this. They’ve been really great, helping us identify changes we need to make, even on Christmas. We’re working on it as fast as we can, and expect to be back on Google very soon.

It sucks to be off Google for us and for the thousands of our community members who have worked so hard to create what’s often the best search result.

We hope everyone who reads this will take a little time out from their Christmas and head to Rap Genius and sign up so you can contribute your knowledge on your favorite subjects – becoming a member of our community makes the site way more fun. Merry Christmas”

Looks like Rap Genius and Google might come to some compromise where Google restores at least some of the startup’s search result ranking juice in exchange for it cleaning up its act. However, at least some of the decreased visibility is likely to stick around for a long time, impeding Rap Genius’ business. We’ll have more details on the outcome of the talks as soon as possible and we are awaiting a response from Google.

For more on the never-ending insanity and adventures of Rap Genius, check out:

Disrupt On-Stage Video: Rap Genius’ Co-Founder Apologizes To Zuck (Then Says They’ll Be Bigger Than Facebook)

Video Interview: Ben Horowitz And The Founders Explain Why A16Z Put $15M Into Rap Genius

Rap Genius Is Getting Into Breaking News Analysis With News Genius

Rap Genius Reveals One Of Its Business Models Will Be ‘Enterprise Genius’ Collaborative Tool