WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) sent a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella about concerns regarding recent actions by the company that resulted in temporary internet censorship in the United States of content related to the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The full text of the letter can be found below:
Dear Mr. Satya Nadella:
I write with concern regarding recent actions by the Microsoft Corporation “Microsoft” that resulted in temporary internet censorship in the United States of content related to the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
On June 4, 2021, online searches in the United States and other countries including France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Singapore for the term “Tank Man,” a symbol of the pro-democracy movement standing up to the state power of communist China, returned no image results. While the People’s Republic of China (PRC) infamously censors internet search terms related to the Tiananmen Square Massacre (including “Tank Man”), the possibility that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) censorship would be extended to the United States by an American company is unacceptable.
Microsoft has blamed the missing search result on Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo Search, and other search engines that rely on Microsoft on “accidental human error.” However, 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. I would appreciate a response to the following questions by June 22, 2021.
- What (if any) terms did the CCP specifically request that Microsoft censor in China leading up to or on June 4?
- When your team described the censorship of Tiananmen Square anniversary language as “accidental human error,” was this censorship unintentional or intentional on the part of an employee or employees?
- Was the source of this “accidental human error” in the United States or in the People’s Republic of China?
- Can a single Microsoft employee cause an “accidental human error” and censor search terms?
- What terms have the CCP requested Microsoft search engines censor in the past year, in the PRC or in other countries?
- What procedures does Microsoft plan to incorporate to prevent the future censorship of Tiananmen Square Massacre search terms?
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Update: Microsoft responded to Senator Romney’s letter on June 21, 2021.