More Microsoft Finger Pointing: Not 1,000 Programmers, Just One

June 9, 2021

I got a kick out of “Microsoft Blames Human Error Amid Suspicion It Censored Bing Results for Tiananmen Square Tank Man.” The tank man reference refers to an individual who stood in front of a tank. Generally this is not a good idea because visibility within tanks is similar to that from a Honda CR-Z. Hold that. The tank has better visibility. Said tank continued forward, probably without noticing a slight impediment.

The story talks not about visibility; its focus is on Microsoft (yep, the SolarWinds’ and new Windows’ outfit). I read:

Throughout Friday afternoon, using the image search function on Microsoft-operated Bing using the words “Tank Man” returned the message, “There are no results for tank man / Check your spelling or try different keywords.” (According to Motherboard, the same is true in other countries outside the U.S., including France and Switzerland.)

DuckDuck and Yahoo search presented a similar no results message. These are metasearch systems eager to portray themselves as much, much more.

Why? The article reports:

Microsoft has done business in China for decades, and Bing is accessible there. Like competitors such as Apple, the company has long complied with the whims of Chinese censors to maintain access to the country’s massive market, and it purges Bing results within China of information its government deems sensitive. However, the company said that blocking image results for “Tank Man” in the U.S. was not intentional and the issue was being addressed. “This is due to an accidental human error and we are actively working to resolve this…”

Could a similar error been responsible for recent security lapses at the Redmond Defender office?

And no smart software, no rules-based instruction, and no filters involved in this curious search result?

Nope. I believe everything I read online about Microsoft. Call me silly.

Stephen E Arnold, June 9, 2021

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