Microsoft Suspects ‘Harmful Human Fault’ for Non-Displaying Bing Tiananmen ‘Tank Man’ Images

Microsoft on Friday blamed a “accidental human error” on its Bing search engine that did not show results of “tank man” query image in the United States and elsewhere after users expressed concern about possible bans during the Tiananmen Square attack.

Users, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and Singapore, reported on Friday that during a search of Bing it returned the message, “No tank man results.”

David Greene, director of civil liberties at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, said content ratings were unlikely to be completely done and “bad mistakes are always made.”

But he said it would be even worse: “Worse, this was a deliberate pressure at the request of a powerful government.”

Just hours after Microsoft received the news, the “tank man” search returned only images of tanks elsewhere in the world.

“Tank Man” is often used to describe an unknown drawn man who stood in front of tanks in China’s Tiananmen Square during a June 1989 democratically contested ceremony.

Microsoft said the matter was “caused by an accidental human error and we are working hard to resolve it.”

Smaller search engines such as DuckDuckGo that licensed results from Microsoft have faced similar problems near the “tank man” search and said they expect to be fixed soon.

Rival Google showed many results with a popular image during a “tank man” search on Friday.

A significant percentage of Microsoft employees working on Bing are based in China, including some users of image recognition software, according to a former employee.

China is known for requiring search engines operating in its territory to evaluate results, but those restrictions are rarely applied elsewhere.

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