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When Racists Take Advantage of Google’s Search ‘Integrity’

If you do a Google Image search for Michelle Obama, here’s what you get.

Notice the very first image, on the top left. No, that’s not a still shot from Planet of the Apes. It’s a racist’s hilarious photo-shopped take on an old white supremacist chestnut (seen recently, of course, on the editorial page of the New York Post).

You’d also see this ad from Google right above the image:

michelle obama - Google Images_1259079351217.png

You’d think Google would do something about this offensive image beyond apologizing for its prominent presence in search results. Search Engine Land‘s Matt McGee says it did:

As we reported last week, Google had originally removed the Michelle Obama image on the grounds that the site hosting the image violated Google’s guidelines by serving malware to visitors. But the same image remained available on other sites that hadn’t run afoul of the rules.

In other words, Google can’t bust everybody for tax fraud. Apparently all it can do in this case is run an apologetic house ad regrettably informing us that, well, not much can be done. From Google’s “explanation of our search results“:

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.

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. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.

We apologize if you’ve had an upsetting experience using Google. We hope you understand our position regarding offensive results.

And have a nice day, First Lady.

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