Microsoft’s Bing temporarily blocked searches for Tiananmen Square ‘Tank Man’ image

Searches for the image known as ‘Tank Man’ were temporarily blocked on Microsoft’s Bing search engine on Friday, the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.


Jeff Widener / Associated Press

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Search engine Bing blocked content in the United States deemed politically sensitive by the Chinese government on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a move the company said was an accident it would correct.

Bing users noted on social media Friday that American searches of the website’s image and video tabs for “Tank Man,” the iconic image of a man standing in front of a column of tanks after the 1989 massacre , they did not return any results. However, searches for the same phrase on the Bing home page returned hundreds of thousands of results.

“This is due to accidental human error and we are actively working to resolve it,” a Microsoft representative said in a statement on Friday.

The statement comes as people marked the date Friday in 1989 when Chinese troops around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square shot dead pro-democracy protesters.

A Bing search result showing no image results for the term “tank man.”

Bing is the world’s second-largest search engine with a market share of about 2%, according to May figures from Statcounter. Google dominates with a global market share of 92%.

Microsoft has faced controversies over compliance with Chinese censorship rules before. The company, which first opened an office in China in 1992, released a heavily censored version of Bing there in 2009; Its professional networking service LinkedIn runs a version censored in China that has been criticized for appearing to censor critics of China outside the country.

In 2019, Microsoft faced a temporary outage of its Bing service in China. At the time, the company said it didn’t know why it happened, but it came as Beijing tightened its grip on the internet and tensions between the United States and China over trade and technology escalated.

Other US tech companies have run into trouble for censoring content that is seen to appease the Chinese government. Last year, Zoom Video Communications INC.

attracted scrutiny for shutting down the account of a US human rights organization shortly after its video conference on the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. US federal prosecutors accused a China-based Zoom executive of act under the direction of Chinese intelligence and law enforcement officials to disrupt the Tiananmen Square commemorations.

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