Microsoft’s Bing Temporarily Blocked Searches of 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

Microsoft Corp.’s

MSFT 2.07%

Bing search engine blocked content in the U.S. deemed politically sensitive to China’s government on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a move the company said was an accident that it would correct.

Bing users noted on social media Friday that U.S. searches on the website’s images and videos tabs for “Tank Man”—the iconic image of a man standing in front of a column of tanks after the 1989 massacre—didn’t return any hits. Searches of the same phrase on Bing’s main page, however, returned hundreds of thousands of results.

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

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

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

Bing is the second-biggest search engine world-wide with a roughly 2% market share, according to May figures from Statcounter. Google dominates with a 92% global share of the market.

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

In 2019, Microsoft dealt with a temporary disruption 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 as tensions grew between the U.S. and China over trade and technology.

Other U.S. tech companies have faced issues over censoring content deemed to appease the Chinese government. Last year,

Zoom Video Communications Inc.

drew scrutiny for shutting down a U.S. human-rights organization’s account shortly after its videoconference on the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. U.S. federal prosecutors went on to charge a China-based Zoom executive with acting at the direction of Chinese law enforcement and intelligence officials to disrupt the Tiananmen Square commemorations.

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