Blog Removes Offensive First Lady Image That Topped Google

PHOTO If you use Google to search for a picture of First Lady Michelle Obama, brace yourself for an unpleasant surprise.

An offensive image of first lady Michelle Obama that had topped Google Image search results appears to have been removed.

The image of President Obama's wife, which had been ostensibly photo-edited to resemble a monkey, was hosted by a blog called "Hot Girls."

When Google users typed "Michelle Obama" into the search box, depending on their Web browsers' settings, the first image to surface in Google Image's search engine could have been the offensive image.

But today the image no longer appears among the search results or on the blog. Instead, on the page that previously hosted the image, the blog's manager posted an apology in English, beneath Chinese text.

"I am very sorry for this article, andthat [sic] this is the program automatically issued a document from the article. Do not the subject of race and politics make the discussion too radical and sincere hope that the world is very peaceful," said the message, which is oddly dated Oct. 21, 2009.

Originally spotted by Search Engine Roundtable, after a Google user reported it to a Google Web search help forum, the offensive image was apparently first hosted by the Web site buzzoverm.blogspot.com.

Google last week removed the image saying the site hosting the image was serving malware to visitors. But, the photo later turned up again on the "Hot Girls" blog.

Google Apologized in Ad Space

Previously, to explain why the offensive image topped Google Image's search results, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company posted a message in the advertising space above the image which read, "Sometimes our search results can be offensive. We agree. Read more."

When you clicked on the corresponding link an even lengthier message appeared.

"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," said a message from "The Google Team."

"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 statement continued. "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."

Individuals and public interest groups periodically ask Google to remove links or change search results, the company said, but the integrity of its search results is an extremely important priority.

Google Will Remove Pages if They Violate Guidelines or if Required by Law

Google added that it will remove pages from results if they violate the company's Webmaster Guidelines or if they are required to do so by law.

"We apologize if you've had an upsetting experience using Google," the message concluded. "We hope you understand our position regarding offensive results."

Barry Schwartz, editor of Search Engine Roundtable, points out on his site that Google offers a similar explanation in the ad space next to search results for "jew," which for a time returned the hate site "Jewwatch" as the highest-ranked site, according to a 2004 post on the Anti-Defamation League's Web site.

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