A man is standing on a wide boulevard with two shopping bags and is holding up a group of battle tanks; the “Tank Man”. The photo from Beijing went around the world and is representative of the ultimately hopeless struggle of the protest movement in 1989 against the authoritarian government of China. But just on the 32nd anniversary of the so-called Tian’anmen massacre, the image could not be found in Microsoft’s search engine for a time, even in the USA and Europe. Microsoft speaks of a mistake.
Google security researcher Shane Huntley first noticed it. He posted a screenshot on Twitter that Bing found no hits for the search term “Tank man” in the image search. Users from other countries such as Great Britain or Switzerland confirmed the behavior. Related search terms such as “Tiananmen square” also promoted harmonious postcard views in comparison to Google image search, while the top dog also shows photos of the violent events from 1989 among the first hits.
Microsoft: It was an accident
Microsoft contradicted the censorship allegations. The software company spoke to several media and agencies of an “accidental human error” and that Microsoft was working on a solution. At first other images of tanks appeared for the search term “tank man”. The search is now showing the famous images of the protests again. However, if you compare Bing’s hits for “Tiananmen Platz” with those for “Tiananmen square”, there are still noticeable differences, as is the case with the German search term between Bing and Google.
A former Microsoft employee told Reuters that a significant proportion of Bing developers were working from China. In China itself, like practically every report on the events of June 1989, the picture is censored. In Hong Kong, too, the central government is now trying to stop commemorative events for the bloody crackdown.