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“Tank Man” censorship by Bing was a human error, says Microsoft

Tank Man

Microsoft’s Bing search engine did not show results for a part of Friday when searching for “Tank Man,” the image of the protester synonymous with Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The same issue was encountered by Vice users in the US, as well as users from other countries.

Even stranger, searching “Tank Man” and “Tiananmen Square Tank Man” in Bing got normal results, just no images were visible. 

Tank Man
Tank Man

June 4th, 2021 is the 32nd anniversary of student-led protests in China, which were met with assault rifles, tanks, and a massacre following response to changes in the country.

Microsoft did eventually restore relevant results to the search, but there is still a noticeable lack of the well-known image. Mentioning “Tiananmen” or “Tiananmen Square” brings up the expected results.

Yet it’s unclear why Bing would value generic images of tanks more than a famous historical image, but we’ve reached out to Microsoft to get a sense of whether it’s normal.

There are some complications surrounding Bing’s presence in China. Financial Times reports that in 2019, Google disappeared from the country for nearly a day after China Unicom, China’s state-owned telecom firm, blocked it.

A Microsoft representative did not provide a reason for the outage, but it was eventually resolved.

During the testing phase of a modified version of Google Search for China, Google encountered resistance from US regulators and its employees over how the product might impact users in the country.

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