Google Explains Offensive Michelle Obama Image in Search Results

Google uses ad space to explain why offensive image tops search results.

ByABC News
November 24, 2009, 11:46 AM

Nov. 24, 2009— -- If you use Google to search for a picture of First Lady Michelle Obama, brace yourself for an unpleasant surprise.

Depending on your Web browser's settings, the first image to surface in Google Image's search engine could be an offensive image of the First Lady ostensibly photo-edited to resemble a monkey.

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

Google last week removed the image saying the site hosting the image was serving malware to visitors. But, the photo has turned up again, this time on another Web site, a "hot girls" blog.

To explain why the offensive image tops Google Image's search results, the Mountain View-based company has posted a message in the advertising space above the image which reads, "Sometimes our search results can be offensive. We agree. Read more."

When you click on the corresponding link an even lengthier message appears.

"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.