Bing, the search engine owned by Microsoft, is not displaying image results for a search for "Tank man," even when searching from the United States. The apparent censorship comes on the anniversary of China's violent crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
"There are no results for tank man," the Bing website reads after searching for the term. "Tank man" relates to the infamous image of a single protester standing in front of a line of Chinese tanks during the crackdown.
China censors and blocks distribution of discussion of tank man and Tiananmen Square more generally. This year, anniversary events in Hong Kong have dwindled in size after authorities banned a vigil.
Bing displays ordinary, non-image search results for tank man when searching from a U.S. IP address; the issue only impacts the images and videos tabs. Google, for its part, displays both when connecting from the same IP address.
Motherboard verified that the issue also impacts image searches on Yahoo and DuckDuckGo, which both use Bing. Neither company immediately responded to a request for comment.
Do you work at Bing or know anything else about this incident? We’d love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on email@example.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Multiple Twitter users also sent Motherboard images of the lack of image results on Bing while connecting from France, Switzerland, and other countries.
Shane Huntley from Google's Threat Analysis Group first tweeted a screenshot of the Bing search result. Security researcher Kevin Beaumont also tweeted the same results from what he said was a search from a UK IP address. Motherboard also replicated the search on a U.S. IP address.
A Microsoft spokesperson told Motherboard in an email that "This is due to an accidental human error and we are actively working to resolve this."
This piece has been updated to include additional information on the impacted countries and search engines, as well as a statement from Microsoft.