Google says sorry to US first lady

Google has apologized over a racially offensive picture of US first lady Michelle Obama, which appears when users search for images of Michelle, the BBC has reported. Google placed a notice over the image, warning “Offensive Search Results”, saying: “Some times, our search results can be offensive. We agree.” However, it refused to remove the picture from its search results. The White House did not comment. A BBC report said users who click on the notice above the image are directed to a statement from Google which explains that its results “can include disturbing content, even from innocuous queries.” We apologize if you have had an upsetting experience using Google,” it further adds.

Google says a website’s ranking in its search results relies heavily on computer algorithms, using thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query. But the search engine says it does not remove images simply because it receives complaints. “Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority,” it said, adding that: “Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it.” However, the company said it would take down certain images, if required by law to do so. A Google spokesperson would not give details on how the image ended up as top result for Michelle.

David Vise, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist and author of The Google Story told the BBC that Google results get to the top based on popularity, not because of any ranking system used by the search engine. “If Google got a call from the White House telling them it is 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 am sure they would do so immediately,” he said.

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