"Tank man", the famous photo of the unknown protester blocking a column of Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square in June 1989, had mysteriously disappeared from the Bing search engine on Friday, the eve of the anniversary of repression.
"It is due to human error and we are actively working to resolve it," said a spokesperson for Microsoft, the computer giant that operates Bing, several hours after reports in the American press.
On “Google Images”, the very dominant competitor service on the Internet, the search for “Tank man” brought up hundreds of occurrences of the image of American photographer Charlie Cole, among others.
We see an unknown protester in a white shirt, trying to symbolically block the progress of a column of at least 17 tanks on June 5, 1989, on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Results censored in China, but normally not elsewhere
The pro-democracy protests had been going on for seven weeks. Their repression had left hundreds, if not more than a thousand, dead. But the cliché, which won the World Press photo of the year award in 1990, remains largely unknown in China due to censorship. The country has an extensive Internet surveillance system that allows it to redact any content deemed sensitive, such as political criticism or pornography. And in the name of stability, the country requires the digital giants to have their own censors to carry out this task upstream.
Failing to comply with these regulations, the vast majority of foreign search engines and social networks (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are blocked in China and Internet users can only access them with bypass software (VPN) .
Bing agrees to play the game in China, but the disappearance of the photo outside of China, in France and the United States, in particular, seemed incomprehensible.
Any commemoration of the Tiananmen crackdown is prohibited in China, and the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong was the only place where it was tolerated.
But with Beijing's turn of the screw against all forms of opposition in the former British colony, the candlelight vigil was banned this year.
The park where it stands remained empty for the first time in 32 years.
By the Web