Bing Image Search blocked the protest photo of “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square in the United States

(Credit: Bing)

Did Microsoft’s Bing search engine export some Chinese censorship to the United States?

Today, Bing blocked US image searches for “Tank Man”, a famous image taken during the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in China.

The image shows an unidentified Chinese man standing in front of a column of tanks. But if you queried the term “tank man” via Bing’s image search in the United States, you received no results, even with the safe search filter turned off.

Vice was the first to report the news after Google security researcher Shane Huntley. tweeted on image blocking. The problem is particularly glaring when you compare Bing’s results to Google’s, which feature numerous photos of Tank Man.

Google results

Bing versus Google

Additionally, DuckDuckGo, which uses Bing, was also not producing any results for Tank Man earlier on Friday. However, the issue only affected image search. A regular text search returned people to the Wikipedia entry for Tank Man.

The image blocking comes on the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, in which China violently suppressed pro-democracy protests in Beijing. The country generally censors any mention of the event, which has forced websites operating in China, including Bing, to filter content.

Bing’s censorship compliance should only apply to users based in mainland China, not users elsewhere. So naturally, the blocking of Tank Man’s image in the United States raised concerns.

In response, Microsoft said it was a problem, not censorship. “This is due to accidental human error and we are actively working to resolve this issue,” a company spokesperson said.

Bing image search now seems to return results for the term “tank man”. But many images are for the tanks, instead of the historic photo.

Bing Result

1 credit

Michael C. Garrison