Internet giant apologizes for ‘confusion’ over pictures of Indian premier in ‘Top 10 Criminals’ search.
Google on Friday was working to get India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi out of the line-up of photos served up in searches for “Top 10 Criminals.”
Google apologized for any “confusion or misunderstanding” caused by showing Modi alongside U.S. mobster Al Capone and atop pictures of unsavory characters. “These results trouble us and are not reflective of the opinions of Google,” the California-based Internet titan said in an email reply to an AFP inquiry. “Sometimes, the way images are described on the Internet can yield surprising results to specific queries.”
An AFP search for top 10 criminals showed U.S. President Barack Obama further down in photo results, in a row with another picture of Modi. “We’re continually working to improve our algorithms to prevent unexpected results like this,” Google said.
While Google did not provide specifics, it appeared that references to “criminal” in captions or unseen data associated with online images were factored in by search software. Tech news website NDTV Gadgets said search results are determined by a variety of factors in Google’s algorithms.
Google Maps apologized last month after it emerged that searches using racist language pinpointed the White House, home of President Barack Obama. The offensive scenario was brought to light after searches combining a racial slur and the word “house” took people to the White House in Google’s free online mapping service in some locations.
It was unclear whether the outcome resulted from a search algorithm being duped or flawed, or was caused by a user taking advantage of crowd-sourced editing capabilities intended to improve maps with local knowledge. “Some inappropriate results are surfacing in Google Maps that should not be, and we apologize for any offense this may have caused,” Google said in a statement released at the time.
While an AFP search using the racist term at Google Maps on Friday turned up no results, the same query in an image search generated an array of pictures of the White House that were evidently connected to stories about the map mischief.
In April, Google began re-evaluating its user-edited online map system after the latest embarrassing incident—an image of an Android mascot urinating on an Apple logo. The image, part of a crowd-sourced edit on Google Maps, appeared briefly at a Pakistani location before it was removed.
Also in April, someone revised the map of the White House in Washington to include a new business called “Edwards Snow Den,” an apparent effort to draw attention to former national security contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked a trove of secret documents on U.S. surveillance. The pranks were done with mapmaking tools that allow any user to edit online maps. Google lets users modify maps in the spirit of tapping into intimate, local knowledge to make them more accurate and detailed.