Jun 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Romney: Microsoft's censorship of Tiananmen Square photos "unacceptable"

Picture of Mitt Romney
Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Tuesday demanded that Microsoft explain why the company blocked images and videos of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests on anniversary of the massacre, CNN reported.

The big picture: A Microsoft spokesperson previously said the removal of the images was a mistake, and blamed it on "accidental human error," per CNN.

What happened: Pictures and videos of "Tank Man," the unidentified protester who who faced tanks during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, were taken down from Bing around the world on Friday, the anniversary of the events.

  • The images reappeared on Saturday.
  • Bing operates in China, meaning Microsoft can be forced by the Chinese government to censor specific search results for users in the country, per CNN.
  • China tends to increase censorship for the Tiananmen Square Massacre weeks ahead of its anniversary.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Ina Fried: Companies that wish to do business in China have to go to great lengths to remove certain content within China, though its influence often (but not always) stops at the border.

What he's saying: "While the People's Republic of China infamously censors internet search terms related to the Tiananmen Square Massacre (including "Tank Man"), the possibility that the Chinese Communist Party's censorship would be extended to the United States by an American company is unacceptable," Romney said.

  • Romney acknowledged Microsoft's explanation for the removal, but added that "the timing of the missing result — the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre — leads to further questions, especially given Microsoft's operations in China."
  • The senator listed a series of questions asking Microsoft to specify how China requested the pictures to be taken down, and whether the "censorship" was intentional.
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