*”Explanatory Ads” by Google

Users searching for “Michelle Obama” on Google Images will see as the first result a offensive/racist picture in which the face of the president’s wife got overlaid with the face of a monkey. [red circle] The image stems from a (Chinese) blog. The picture later got removed from the blog alongside with an apology in Chinese and English.

What makes the issue interesting however is the ad shown above the search result. [purple rectangle]

Google Image Search by Austrotrabant, not showing the original blog entry

The Top-ad reads: “Offensive Search Result, Sometimes our search results can be offensive. We agree. Read more“.


Clicking onto the link leads to a website that states:

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.

[emphasis added by austrotrabant]


However, showing an offensive photo of Michelle Obama doesn’t, according to Matt McGee, violate any of those three guidelines on its own. The blog however got removed/delisted out of Google’s index for another reason: providing male-ware. Searchengineland reported that the blog actually DID contain male-ware and the  removal was thus justified.

This is however not the first time that Google has used ads to explain/justify its search results. the Guardian reports that in 2004 when searches for the word “Jew” returned antisemitic website results Google responded with a similar approach.

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