Microsoft says Bing’s ‘Tank Man’ censorship was a human error

Search engines returned to China in 2019

On Microsoft’s search engine Bing, a search for “tank man”, the figure eminent from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China, yielded no image results in the United States for the part of Friday. Vice was able to produce similar results Heard from several users in the US, and in other countries, who ran into the same issue.

Weird still, a search for “Tank Man” or “Tiananmen Square Tank Man” brought up the usual search results in Bing, the only images that were mysteriously missing. When ledge Contacted Microsoft for clarification, it said “This is due to an accidental human error and we are actively working to resolve it.”

Search results for “tank man” after the accident.

It is an unfortunately timely accident, as June 4, 2021 marks the 32nd anniversary of student-led protests in China – an insurgency in response to changes in the country that was met with assault rifles, tanks and a massacre. Microsoft eventually restored the results for the specific search, though it’s still conspicuously missing the famous image. However, adding in the mention of “Tiananmen” or “Tiananmen Square” pulls off what you’d expect. It’s unclear why Bing would weigh more on typical images of tanks than a well-known piece of visual history, but we’ve contacted Microsoft to see if this is normal.

Search results for “tank man” after Microsoft resolved the issue.

Bing’s presence in China is somewhat complicated. The search engine almost disappeared from the country for a day in 2019, seemingly because state-owned telecommunications company China Unicom was ordered to block it. According to financial Times. Microsoft did not disclose the cause of the outage, but service was eventually restored.

Google experienced issues in its search for a modified version of Google Search for China, but faced harsh backlash from employees and US regulators over how the product could affect users in the country.

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