Microsoft’s Bing search engine goes offline in China

Updated 24 January 2019
0

Microsoft’s Bing search engine goes offline in China

  • Attempts to open cn.bing.com has resulted in an error message for users since Wednesday
  • China’s Communist authorities operate an online censorship apparatus known as the “Great Firewall”
BEIJING: Microsoft was investigating a disruption in its Bing search engine in China on Thursday, with social media users fearing it could be the latest foreign website to be blocked by censors.
Attempts to open cn.bing.com has resulted in an error message for users since Wednesday.
“We’re aware of reports that Bing may be inaccessible to some customers in China and are investigating,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.
China’s Communist authorities operate an online censorship apparatus known as the “Great Firewall,” which blocks a slew of websites including Facebook, Twitter and several foreign media outlets.
But it was not clear whether or not Bing joined the long list of prohibited websites, or if its China service was experiencing technical difficulties.
China’s cyberspace administration could not immediately be reached for comment.
China’s Great Firewall can be circumvented by using a virtual private network (VPN), which can hide a user’s IP address.
While its rival Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010 after rows over censorship and hacking, Bing has continued to operate in the country along with Microsoft-owned Skype.
On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media site, people complained about the lack of access, with some speculating that Bing too had been “walled off.”
Others aired their dissatisfaction about having to use Baidu, China’s largest domestic search service.
“I can’t open Bing, but I don’t want to use Baidu — what to do?” wrote one user.
“Bing is actually dead — is this to force me to use Baidu??” said another, cursing.
China has tightened policing of the Internet in recent years, shuttering 26,000 “illegal” websites in 2018 alone and deleting six million online posts containing vulgar content, the official Xinhua news agency said earlier this month.
Bing’s disruption comes as the United States and China are locked in a bruising trade war, with US accusations that China steals technological know-how among the core disagreements.
The two sides are scheduled for new trade negotiations next week.


Greek researchers enlist EU satellite against Aegean sea litter

Greek university students gently deposits a wall-sized PVC frame on the surface before divers moor them at sea at a beach in the island of Lesbos on April 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019
0

Greek researchers enlist EU satellite against Aegean sea litter

  • “All the targets were carried into the sea, the satellites passed by and we’re ready to fill out the first report”
  • Satellite data is provided free from the European Space Agency (ESA) and hours after the overpass targets should be detected from the Sentinel-2 satellite

LESBOS ISLAND, Greece: Knee-deep in water on a picture-postcard Lesbos island beach, a team of Greek university students gently deposits a wall-sized PVC frame on the surface before divers moor it at sea.
Holding in plastic bags and bottles, four of the 5 meter-by-5-meter (16 foot-by-16-foot) frames are part of an experiment to determine if seaborne litter can be detected with EU satellites and drones.
“This was the first big day,” says project supervisor Konstantinos Topuzelis, an assistant professor at the University of the Aegean department of Marine Sciences, said of the scene from last week.
“All the targets were carried into the sea, the satellites passed by and we’re ready to fill out the first report.”
The results of the experiment — “Satellite Testing and Drone Mapping for Marine Plastics on the Aegean Sea” — by the university’s Marine Remote Sensing Group will be presented at a European Space Agency symposium in Milan in May.
“Marine litter is a global problem that affects all the oceans of the world,” Topouzelis told AFP.
Millions of tons of plastic end up in the oceans, affecting marine wildlife all along the food chain.
“Modern techniques are necessary to detect and quantify marine plastics in seawater,” Topouzelis added, noting that space agencies have already been looking into how drones and satellites can help with the clean-up.
“The main advantage is that we are using existing tools,” which brings down costs and makes it easier to scale up, says Dimitris Papageorgiou, one of the 60 undergraduate and postgraduate students who worked on the experiment.
To prepare, the team gathered some 2,000 plastic bottles and lashed them to the frames. Other targets were crafted with plastic bags, as these are even harder to spot in the water and usually constitute the deadliest threat to Aegean marine life such as dolphins, turtles and seals.
In 2018, a first phase in the experiment was able to detect large targets of around 100 square meters from space.
This year’s experiment uses targets a quarter that size to test the smallest detectable area under various weather conditions.
“It was a crazy idea,” laughs Topouzelis.
“We knew that the European satellite system passes at regular intervals with a spatial resolution of 10 meters.”
In theory, then, the satellites should be able to detect the floating rafts of plastic the team pushed out to sea.
The University of the Aegean is working on the project with Universidad de Cadiz in Spain, CNR-Ismar in Italy and UK environmental consultants Argans Ltd.
Satellite data is provided free from the European Space Agency (ESA) and hours after the overpass targets should be detected from the Sentinel-2 satellite.
The project acts as a calibration and validation exercise on the detection capabilities of the satellites.
But even if relatively small patches of plastic garbage can be spotted from orbiting satellites, the problem of how to remove it from the sea remains.
Last year, a giant floating barrier five years in the making was launched off the coast of San Francisco, as part of a $20-million project to clean up a swirling island of rubbish between California and Hawaii.
But the slow speed of the solar-powered barrier prevents it from holding onto the plastic after it scoops it up.