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This article was published on November 24, 2009

Google says sorry for racist Michelle Obama image

Google says sorry for racist Michelle Obama image
Martin Bryant
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Martin Bryant

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Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-qualit Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-quality, compelling content for them. He previously served in several roles at TNW, including Editor-in-Chief. He left the company in April 2016 for pastures new.

google-obama-adGoogle is using its own ad platform to apologise for its search results. Right now a racist image is turning up as the top result in Google Image search results for “Michelle Obama”.

The image, which we won’t link to here, is clearly offensive but as Search Engine Land reports Google isn’t removing it. Instead it has taken out an ad that displays alongside the search results and points at this explanation for offensive image results.

The  reported ad doesn’t show up every time the image in question is served up by Google – we got variable results when searching. The linked-to apology reads:

“Sometimes Google search results from the Internet can include disturbing content, even from innocuous queries. We assure you that the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google.”

So, why doesn’t Google remove such offensive images from search results?

“The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results.”

Although many people would want racially offensive images removed from search results, Google’s stance is an admirable one.

To make a judgement over the acceptability of an image would be a dangerous precedent for Google. With many accusing Google of already wielding too much power, it would be an unwise move to go too far down the censorship route.

While blocking racist images would be something most people would probably agree with, questions could then be asked about what else Google may be blocking due to value judgements. Far better to be open and transparent about what is on the internet, as long as it’s within the law. Google still blocks illegal images.

It could be argued that racist images such as the one in question here should be made illegal but that’s another question.

Still, don’t be too surprised to see the offensive image of Michelle Obama disappear from Image Search results thanks to an algorithm tweak in the very near future.

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