Microsoft-run search engine Bing was unavailable in mainland China attempting to open cn.bing.com results in an error message, though users can still access Bing's global site using a virtual private network (VPN), which allows people to circumvent China's "Great Firewall" of censorship. The service was blocked on the instructions of the government, the Financial Times cited unidentified sources as saying. Unlike Alphabet Inc.s Google, which pulled its search engine out years ago in part to avoid government censorship, Microsoft has toed the line and stops content deemed illegal from showing up in results.
Attempts to open cn.bing.com has resulted in an error message for users since Wednesday.
"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. It has since moved from its policy of opposing censorship, having made plans for a censored version of its search engine - code-named Dragonfly - for China.
If Bing is indeed blocked in China, it would become the second major search engine to exit the country.
Following complaints by users via social media, Microsoft investigated and confirmed that Bing is inaccessible on mobile devices. But President Xi Jinping's government has steadily tightened control over online activity.
However, Bing is not the only internet-based service that has been blocked/taken down in the country.More news: Tottenham need Llorente's excellent Chelsea goal to be springboard for better form
Smith said Microsoft isn't certain whether the blocking of its search engine "is confined to Bing or if it is something that is broader".
Those next steps are presumably calling up the Chinese authorities and asking what the company did to fall foul of the alleged DNS redirect of doom.
On Friday, for example, a Bing search for Liu Xiaobo, the dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died of cancer while still in custody previous year, returned one message: "Results are removed in response to a notice of local law requirement".
"Bing has a tiny market share in China, but appearance matters to Beijing", said Lokman Tsui, associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and former head of free expression at Google in Asia.
Chinese internet users who lost access to Bing set off grumbling about the ruling Communist Party's increasingly tight censorship earlier today.