Chinese search giant Baidu (80% of the Chinese search market) now has a willing partner to officially provide its censored English-language search results -- Microsoft's Bing.
In a carefully worded statement, Baidu explained that Microsoft was not submitting to "any further" censorship or restrictions on its English search results "than they already do." In other words, the same level of censorship that Microsoft servilely performs now to maintain its Chinese presence, will continue under the new deal.
Microsoft's ethical vacuity in this area is no surprise. A year and a half ago, in Microsoft's Ballmer to China: Forget Google -- If You Want Censorship, Come to Bing!, I noted that Microsoft had made its willingness to kowtow in the face of China's censorship demands very clear indeed.
But by officially joining with Baidu in this way, Microsoft has now become a full partner in China's oppressive censorship regime.
Microsoft's business reasons for this coupling are clear enough. What they are doing is perfectly legal, and viewed strictly in terms of their bottom line, arguably makes sense, at least in the short run.
But on the Fourth of July in particular -- a day steeped in meaning with its connections to our Bill of Rights and free speech -- it's difficult to paint Microsoft's deal in this case with other than a thick coat of shame.
Have a happy and safe Independence Day!