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article imageGoogle Will Not Remove Racially Offensive Image of Michelle Obama

By Chris Dade     Nov 25, 2009 in Internet
Google has issued an apology to people who may be offended by a picture they have accessed on the search engine which portrays U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama as a monkey, but the company does not have any plans to remove the image in question.
As KTLA reports when a doctored image showing Michelle Obama, wife of U.S. President Barack Obama, as a monkey first appeared on Google last week the image was duly removed as the site hosting it was said to be the source of malware.
This story was first reported on Search Engine Roundtable, in article posted here.
However, now that the image has resurfaced on a new site, Google has declined to remove it from its image search results, but the California-based Internet giant has placed a warning notice above the image explaining why users of its search engine may find themselves viewing material that is racist or anti-Semitic.
France 24 confirms that a similar warning appears on the page where people have entered "Jew" as the search word as there has been at least one instance of users of Google being directed to an anti-Semitic website when they had no wish to visit such a site.
If those using the Google search engine choose to click on the warning notice posted by the company they will see a statement which acknowledges that "Sometimes our search results can be offensive". The notice also says that "disturbing content" can be accessed when a seemingly innocuous search term is used, adding that "the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google".
Nevertheless, whilst asserting that an image or images would be removed if there was a legal requirement to do so, Google insists that receiving a complaint about an image would not be sufficient to ensure its removal.
Google clarified its position in the warning notice that it has posted, saying:Search engines are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Internet. 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.
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
Further explaining that "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" and referring to how "Sometimes subtleties of language cause anomalies to appear that cannot be predicted" Google also offers an apology to anyone who may have had an "upsetting experience" when using the services it provides.
No comment on the matter has been forthcoming from the White House but the BBC has spoken to David Vise, a former reporter with the Washington Post who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 and is the author of the 2006 book "The Google Story". He said:If Google got a call from the White House telling them it's against the law to have an offensive image of this kind which portrays the first lady in a racist manner as a monkey or an ape, then they would be obliged to take it down and I'm sure they would do so immediately
Emphasizing the dangers of Google trying "to police the limits of free speech", although it has given no indication that it has a desire to do so, he noted: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
Mr Vise told the BBC too that achieving a top search result on Google is simply a matter of popularity and not based on a ranking system.
A spokesman for Google would not go into specifics as to how entering the search term "Michelle Obama" brings up the offensive image as the top result.
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