(San Francisco) “Tank Man,” the famous photograph of an unidentified protester intercepting a column of Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square in June 1989, mysteriously disappeared from Bing’s search engine on Friday, the eve of the anniversary of the crackdown.
“This is due to human error, and we are actively working on it,” a spokesperson for Microsoft, the computer giant that runs Bing, said several hours after reports were received in the US press.
On Google Images, the Internet’s dominant rival service, a search for “Tank man” triggered hundreds of iterations of the image of American photographer Charlie Cole, among others.
We see an unidentified protester in a white shirt, symbolically trying to block the advance of a column of at least 17 tanks on June 5, 1989, in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Pro-democracy protests continued for seven weeks. Their suppression left hundreds, if not more than a thousand dead.
But the vulgar photo, which won the World Press Photo of the Year in 1990, is still largely unknown in China due to censorship.
The country has an extensive internet censorship system that allows it to filter any content deemed sensitive, such as political criticism or pornography. And in the name of stability, the country is asking the digital giants to have their own oversight to do the job upstream.
Due to non-compliance with these regulations, the vast majority of foreign search engines and social networks (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are blocked in China and can only be accessed by Internet users using bypass programs (VPN).
But the disappearance of the image on Bing, outside of China, seemed incomprehensible.
Any commemoration of the Tiananmen Campaign is prohibited in China, and the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong was the only place where it was tolerated.
But with Beijing turning in the face of all opposition in the former British colony, the candlelight vigil was banned this year. The park where it stands has remained empty for the first time in 32 years.