Synthetic Tiananmen tank man dominates Google Search

Occurred: September 2023

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An AI-generated selfie of China's infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre 'tank man' was listed as the top featured image on Google Search.

The AI image was created using the Midjourney image generator by Reddit user Ouroboros696969 six months earlier as an art experiment, and had been posted to the service's sub-Reddit, which enables Midjourney users to post their AI-generated content. The image was subsequently picked up, assessed, and published by Google's automated search engine crawlers and ranking systems

The incident prompted commentators to point to the degradation of Google's search engine and the information ecosystem more generally, and raised questions about the technology company's ability to detect and manage AI-generated political misinformation and disinformation.

Google later removed the fake image from its Knowledge Graph.


Operator: Alphabet/Google; Reddit user  
Developer: Alphabet/Google; Midjourney

Country: USA

Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts

Purpose: Generate images

Technology: Text-to-image; Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Mis/disinformation

Transparency: Governance

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: September 2023
Last updated: November 2023