Microsoft said there were no images of Tiananmen’s ‘tank man’ in Bing’s search engine due to error – National
June 4 (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp on Friday blamed “accidental human error” for Bing’s search engine not showing image results for the query “tank man” in the United States and where to end users worry about possible censorship around Tiananmen Square anniversary crackdown
Users, including in the United Kingdom, Germany and Singapore, reported on Friday that when they conducted the search Bing returned the message, “No results for tank man.”
David Greene, director of civil liberties at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, said moderating content is completely impossible to do and “serious mistakes are always made.”
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But he said it could have been more obscene: “At worst, it’s deliberately suppressing the request of a powerful state.”
A few hours after Microsoft identified the issue, the search “tank man” only returned images of tanks elsewhere in the world.
The “tank man” is often used to describe an unknown person famously pictured standing in front of tanks in China’s Tiananmen Square during pro-democracy demonstrations in June 1989.
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Microsoft said the issue was “due to an unintentional human error and we are actively working to resolve it.”
Smaller search engines like DuckDuckGo that license results from Microsoft have faced similar issues around “tank man” searches and said they hope to fix it soon.
Rival Google showed multiple results for the popular image when it performed a search for “tank man” on Friday.
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A significant percentage of Microsoft employees who work at Bing are based in China, with some working in image recognition software, according to a former employee.
China is known to require search engines running on its jurisdiction to censor results, but those restrictions rarely apply elsewhere.
(Reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif. And Joseph Menn in San Francisco Editing by Matthew Lewis and Cynthia Osterman)