(Image credit: BigStock/sharafmaksumov)

Microsoft’s search engine Bing is once again accessible in China following an outage earlier this week that sparked concern it had become the latest victim of government censorship.

According to anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg, Bing was blocked due to an accidental technical error, rather than an act of censorship.

Users in China began reporting that service had been restored late on Thursday evening and its Chinese domain—cn.bing.com—was operational. A Microsoft representative confirmed to TechNode that the search engine was accessible on Friday morning.

The outage prompted concern over whether Bing had become the latest foreign search engine to be blocked by China’s Great Firewall, the country’s mechanism for regulating the Chinese internet by blocking access to foreign websites.

It also led to speculation that Bing’s outage was a result of an incident involving its Chinese rival, Baidu, which had been accused of promoting low-quality content (in Chinese).

Bing outage in China prompts censorship speculation among netizens

Chinese netizens on Wednesday afternoon posted accounts on popular messaging app WeChat and microblogging platform Weibo claiming that the search engine was inaccessible from within China. TechNode could not access the search engine’s Chinese domain as of 2 p.m. on Thursday. A Microsoft representative confirmed to TechNode that its services were unavailable at the time.

Bing remains the last major Western search engine in China. In order to operate in the country, the company has had to filter topics the Chinese government deems sensitive. The platform has minimal penetration in the country, holding just 2% of the market.

US search giant Google has reportedly been looking at re-entering the Chinese search market following its exit in 2010. The company was last year working on a search prototype dubbed Project Dragonfly as it explored ways to operate in the country while complying with Chinese laws. The initiative has since been shelved following internal complaints.

Additional reporting by Emma Lee.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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