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Microsoft Bing seemingly censors image results for Tiananmen Square 'Tank Man' pic (update)

Microsoft Bing Logo 2020 Hero Browser
Microsoft Bing Logo 2020 Hero Browser (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft's Bing is not displaying images for "Tank Man," a picture linked to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
  • This image's global censorship is causing concern for many.
  • People are wondering if Chinese censorship policies are affecting global knowledge repositories.
  • Microsoft has issued a statement claiming the removal was in error.

Update: Microsoft has issued a statement declaring the removal an error. A Microsoft spokesperson told Business Insider "this is due to a human error, and we are actively working to resolve this." (Thanks to John C for the tip.)

It looks like Bing isn't a fan of the iconic Tank Man image, which depicts a lone man standing in front of tanks following the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The image's absence comes on the anniversary of the protests.

China's been infamous for its censorship of the Tiananmen Square situation and what went down there, but those outside the country didn't typically have to worry about the subject being censored. However, Microsoft's Bing seems to be changing its tune on that policy.

As spotted by Google's Shane Huntley on Twitter, Bing-searching "Tank Man" will net you a "sorry, no results here" message instead of thousands of copies of the iconic picture (via Motherboard). DuckDuckGo, a search engine that utilizes Bing for results, displays the same message. In stark contrast, Google shows the image instead of pretending it doesn't exist.

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What's odd is that Bing still shows results for Tank Man via traditional searches, so it's not like the apparent image censorship is enough to stop anyone from using the search engine to learn about the protests. However, the random gutting of all imagery for the iconic photo sets a strange precedent for most of the planet, which isn't supposed to be susceptible to Chinese censorship practices ("supposed to be" being the operative phrase in that sentence).

Tank Man Bing Results

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft has yet to comment on the matter as of this writing, but it will be interesting to see what the tech giant has to say. Whether future search topics will be globally censored in either the image category or traditional search field remains to be seen, but this is an unsettling incident even by itself.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

16 Comments
  • How is anyone getting a blank search?? I see tank man just fine. Also "tiananmen massacre" show results as well. Unless they just rolled it back
  • The censorship is in image search, I can reproduce it here.
  • Did you spell it tankman or tank man. Because the latter doesn't work.
  • Does Bing image search have a problem with spaces in other searches?
  • I got a blank search too using just 'tank man.' As of 6:50 PM ET, it now shows images, but none are of the Tiananmen Square type, just generic tanks, and guys. Google, meanwhile, shows the correct image in question using 'tank man.'
  • Same. Plenty of info about it in normal search,
    but image search is a barren wasteland of all tank man's -except for tank man.
    I'm in Australia.....
    UPDATE
    Wait, there is some there now, tucked amongst all the other tank man's.
  • It's interesting that it has made the news here in Australia this morning and Bing search is even showing this very article close to the top of the tank man search results.
  • I can't replicate it on my end.
  • Strange human error. I thought algorithms controlled this.
  • MS has been censoring a lot more than that, including human rights abuses by India, Israel and other US allies. I don't understand why only China is being mentioned all the time.
  • KshurMD...... you are going to compare the human rights abuses of China to India/Israel.... seems like you might have some bias. China kills Muslims for no reason other than non-conformity, it has slave labor camps... it use to limit families to one child... there is no free speech, there is no freedom of religion.... there is not free elections, the government controls everything...could argue it is worse than **** Germany...for sure it has killed more people. Say what you will about I/I, not perfect, but they are not even in the same league as China
  • They also have bias in their "junk" email filters.... either that, or their technology is terrible. Emails for CDB gummies, bank account phishing emails, penis enhancers, most leftwing groups..... get into my inbox, no problem, but emails from my kids teachers at various Catholic schools, my friend at a prolife group, or basically any conservative religious based organization....... "to the Junk Mail...you go"
  • lol... everything is a consipiracy
  • If you search "Tiananmen massacre" you see a ton of images... its just the tank man that isn't showing much other than all the news stories talking about it. You can even search for the dead...
  • Bing's main results for tank man are how Bing censors tank man along side pictures of tank man
  • Trial run anyone?