China leads the way in Internet censorship requests

China leads the world in requests to remove content from the Internet, according to a new report from Microsoft.

From Jan. 1 to June 30, the Chinese government asked Microsoft to remove 165 items from the web, according to the company's annual transparency report released on Wednesday. That compared to 21 requests from other countries, which included 11 from the United States, five from Germany, two each from the United Kingdom and Russia, and one from Austria.

Microsoft honored 88 percent of China's requests, but neither of Russia's. For every other country, it took down every item that was requested. In a blog post, Microsoft explained, the requests are "based on violations of local laws or our terms of service."

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"While the majority of requests are for the removal of links to search results on Bing, we also may receive requests for the removal of content for other Microsoft consumer online services, including OneDrive, Bing Ads and MSN," the company said.

China considers censorship requests to be state secrets, so companies are barred from reporting the specifics of such demands. However, a 2014 analysis of content removal requests published by Google suggested 48 percent of requests that company received from the Chinese government pertained to government criticism; 35 percent related to national security; and 9 percent were alleged cases of defamation. The remaining 8 percent were related to privacy, security and copyright issues.

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Google has faced challenges operating in China. It began encrypting its searches last year in an effort to degrade the ability of government censors to monitor its users. The Chinese government responded by erecting a number of virtual blockades that make it harder to access the company's services.

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