Google Buys Search Ad For Offensive Michelle Obama Image Result

Nov 23, 2009 • 3:20 pm | comments (13) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

If you search on for [Michelle Obama] in Google Image Search you will see a racist and offensive image of the first lady. We first reported this image back in ten days ago and then gave Google a hard time for removing the Obama result.

Well, the result is now back, hosted on a new site. But this time, Google bought a search ad explaining why the result is there and why Google cannot remove it:

Google Ad for Michelle Obama Image

If you click on the ad, you are taken to which reads:

An 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.

Sincerely, The Google Team

You find a similar message for when you search on [jew], which leads to

I am not sure how I feel about either. On the one hand, I hate to see this type of stuff in Google's results. On the other hand, I'd hate to see Google remove results based on a manual review and on their own ethical beliefs.

Forum discussion continued at Google Web Search Help.

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11/23/2009 09:55 pm

Google should, however, refine their search engine algorithms to reduce these kinds of problems. If the image in question in not really relevant, or misleading, or racist, or whatever the cause, it should be removed manually right?

Michael Butler

11/23/2009 09:59 pm

I understand Google's stance on not manually tampering with search results, but what I don't understand is how the person or persons hosting the image are able to exploit the ranking system to make it the first result. Maybe the controversial nature of the situation has everyone spreading around this kind of thing: "this is terrible, look what happens when you search for Michelle Obama on google image search" and then they do it, and click on the image which I assume increases it's rank ever so slightly. Then those people tell more people and the cycle continues.

Clarence Southerland

11/23/2009 11:18 pm

respect please


11/24/2009 01:25 am

I find Google's response to be 100% correct. Your blog referring to this image was the only time I have ever seen this image. If you want to promote something on the internet - keep writing about it. Grow up -there are far worse images of Bush - did you complain about those??

Barry Schwartz

11/24/2009 01:37 am

Newsbird, we did. We cover search engines, not politics. We cover whenever Google changes the results or does manual things like this.


11/24/2009 02:20 am

What's odd to me, is that if I turn off SafeSearch altogether this image drops of the first page. When set to Strict, it drops to #2. Moderate SafeSearch has it land first place.


11/24/2009 08:24 am

Also interesting is that Google says they are using thousands of factors in their algoritme. In other messages they used to talk about over '200 signals' which is considerably less than 'thousands'.

Crimson Wife

11/25/2009 06:20 am

I'm not a fan of the Obamas, but that's awful. I can tell Google to screen out sexually explicit images, why can't I tell them to screen out racist ones as well?

Non White American

11/25/2009 02:46 pm

No one complained about the George W Bush pics that compared him to a chimpanzee - search Google for an image of GW and you'll see the monkey shot on the first page. Search under George Bush Monkey and you get hundreds. No one had a problem with the Bush-Hitler pictures either! I hope in my lifetime I will see true equality as well, except my vision extends to how we treat white people as well.


11/26/2009 08:34 am

Insults like this proves to the world that there are still people in and outside of America who enjoy the suffering and racism of minorities, in and outside of the America. One should remember the truth and what the world knows; the beginnings/foundation of America was built on an evil curse called Slavery. The founders of America had Slaves. George Washington had Slaves, Thomas Jefferson had children from Slaves, Benjamin Franklin also had children from Slaves, etc. There are still people with hideous and hypocritical moral souls who still enjoy theses kinds of indignities, so what does that say about moral standing of America in the world? How can America give moral advice to any other nation? Get the picture? They can say, you (America), a nation that hasn't come to grips with its own moral conscience and about its Slavery past, how can you even attemped to try to advise the rest of the world about Human Rights when you continue, even in the 21st century, to enjoy indignifying the descendence of slaves who have fought for Human Rights since their enslavement? Hopefully, this is not the true soul of America, but we will see, won't we. America will be judged before the eyes of all mankind, moral and spiritually, there is no doubt about that.


11/26/2009 11:00 pm

If we dont believe in freedom of speech for people we despise then we dont believe in it at all.


11/28/2009 08:39 am

well said brant. not well said lookoutofthebox.


11/30/2009 08:11 pm

When one is in he Publics eye, there are no punches pulled. For the good or bad, for the Liberal or conservative. Take it like a champ...

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