Google was the victim of another Google bomb when the top-ranked result for U.S. first lady Michelle Obama on Google Image Search showed a picture of the woman altered to have the features of a chimpanzee below a link to a suggested Google search for the terms “Michelle Obama monkey.”
The image was posted on a blog called Hot Girls, which is hosted by Google’s Blogger service. Hot Girls later removed the image and offered an apology in Chinese with a choppy translation in English, which you can read here.
Update: A Google spokesperson confirmed this for me: “We did not pull the image. Apparently it was taken down by the people who posted it.”
Indeed, Google refused to remove the image, posting a link titled Offensive Search Results:
This link led to a Web page where Google apologized for the image and offered its disclaimer:
“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.Search engines are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Internet. A site’s ranking in Google’s search results relies heavily on computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query.“
Did the poster of the image game Google’s search algorithm? That’s what many experts think.
The image was racist, insensitive and vulgar, to be sure. But did Google do the right thing in sticking to its guns?
Should Google intervene and take moral stances, or is it incumbent upon the world’s leading search engine to remain coolly detached and objective?
Opinions on this vary, but the new Obama Google bomb recalls the 2004 Google bomb when the query Jew returned racist content. Remember, Google search is entirely math-based, so no human input weighs into what results surface.
It’s the whole slippery slope thing, as journalist and author David Vise told the BBC:
“Once you begin to block images, who is to say. It’s like the Supreme Court of the United States once said, ‘What is pornography?’ Well, we can’t define it, but we know it when we see it.“