Photographs and clips of “Tank Man” were removed worldwide from Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, on Friday, the 32nd anniversary of pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
The term “Tank Man” is widely used to refer to an anonymous person who was notably photographed standing in front of tanks at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, during China’s brutal assault on student-led demonstrations.
According to a Microsoft representative, the images and videos of Tank Man were pulled offline by accident, blaming the removal on “human error.” However, outside of China, the pictures resurfaced on Saturday, June 5, hours after Microsoft recognized the problem.
On June 4, 1989, the CCP slaughtered hundreds (some say thousands) of Chinese civilians in Tiananmen Square. The killing made international news, as did the classic photographs of “Tank Man” challenging the military on the square.
Bing delivered the response, “There are no results for tank man,” to users in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Singapore when searching on Friday, June 4.
Other search engines that license Microsoft results, such as DuckDuckGo, reported the same problems with “Tank Man” searches and said they hoped for a correction shortly.
According to a staff member, many Microsoft employees working on Bing are based in China, including some who focus on image-recognition technology.
According to David Greene, civil liberties director at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, content filtering could not perform thoroughly, and severe errors resulted.
“At worst, this was purposeful suppression at the request of a powerful state,” he added.
China is suspected of surveillance of American businesses operating within its territory, and conflicts between the United States and China have recently arisen.
Last week, President Biden extended a Trump-era restriction on American participation in several Chinese companies that Washington suspects are related to China’s army. In response to the menace of Chinese spying technologies, Biden signed an executive order (E.O.) on Thursday, June 3, prohibiting Americans from possessing or selling stocks related to 59 Chinese firms, including Huawei Technologies. This E.O will be effective August 2.
“This E.O. allows the United States to prohibit—in a targeted and scoped manner—U.S. investments in Chinese companies that undermine the security or democratic values of the United States and our allies,” said the order.