Microsoft was accused of censoring search results for Tiananmen Square

Microsoft was accused of censoring search results for Tiananmen Square

On the anniversary of the Beijing massacre, the photo of "Tank man", the nameless man who challenged the regime in 1989, did not appear on Microsoft's search engine Bing for a few hours. Censorship or mistake human?

(photo: Cnn / Getty Images) China has officially denied for decades the extent of what historiography calls the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, when Chinese army tanks opened fire on crowd of demonstrators - including many young people and students - who had gathered in the large main square of Beijing, causing an unspecified number (estimates vary between several hundred and several thousand) of deaths. To find, browsing from China, images and videos of that night is very difficult.

A survey of a few years ago cited by the New York Times found that just over 30% of Chinese citizens interviewed recognized photographs of that moment, which have instead become iconic in the res to the world, like that of Tank man, the man never identified who - plastic bag in hand - stood in front of an army tank, symbolically challenging the regime. The shot became one of the most famous, but also censored, of the last century.

On Friday, June 4, however, the same search for Tank man made through Microsoft's search engine, Bing, produced no results for the images not even from the United States and other countries such as France and Switzerland, according to what Vice reported. The strange thing is that the normal search results - the links, so to speak, and not the photos - were instead in their place.

I'd love to hear @BradSmi explanation on this.

I know Microsoft censor for the CCP in China, but this search is from the US.

- Shane Huntley (@ShaneHuntley) June 4, 2021

Contacted by The Verge, Microsoft said the lack of images was due "to an accidental human error" and that the company was working to fix it. As The Verge always notes, if it was a mistake it was a very unfortunate coincidence as June 4 marks the anniversary of the student-led protests in China and culminating in the Tiananmen massacre.

Microsoft in the end it restored the results of the specific search, although once the controversy returned by typing "Tank man" the search engine still returned only images of normal tanks, not related to the 1989 protests: only with the addition of "Tienanmen" or “Tiananmen square” you could find the specific image. It is still unclear, if it really was human error, why generic images of tanks are more relevant to Bing than a historical image.

Bing had already had problems with China. The search engine disappeared from the country for nearly a day in 2019. Microsoft never revealed the cause of the outage but, according to the Financial Times, the state-owned telecommunications company was ordered to block the search engine. br>

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