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[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/25/google.art.jpg caption="Google has apologised for an offensive image of Michelle Obama."]If you have typed “Michelle Obama” into Google image search recently you will have been presented with a racially offensive image of the U.S. first lady as your number one image. Sad but true.
Google happily concede that “search engines are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Internet.”
So the news that they have been issuing apologies for the image and other photos relating to anti-Semitic material has caused something of a stir in cyberspace.
Missives on the subject from Google HQ have come thick and fast in recent days. “We apologize if you've had an upsetting experience using Google," one statement said.
Another sought to reassure users that “the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google."
Further explanations followed on “computer algorithms” and “subtleties of language” causing “anomalies” which Google cannot predict.
One might conclude that Google were keen to distance themselves from the offensive material. But did they need really need to issue such detailed explanations and apologies?
Aren’t the vast majority of people using the Internet aware of its capriciousness and are prepared to accept that sometimes, unfortunately, strange things result from a few harmless keystrokes? Indeed, the Internet’s scope and randomness is often part of its appeal.
There are plenty of offensive websites and images on the Internet, but did we need Google to explain that to us? Was Google right in the way they behaved? Or do you think they should remove the offending image? We want to hear what you think. Post your comments below.