Offensive Michelle Obama Image Returns, Google Buys Ad To Explain

Matt McGee on
  • Categories: Channel: Consumer, Features: Analysis, Google: Images, Legal: Censorship
  • Google is buying ads to explain why an offensive image of the First Lady is back in its index and ranking so highly on searches for Michelle Obama in Google Image Search.

    As we reported last week, Google had originally removed the Michelle Obama image on the grounds that the site hosting the image violated Google’s guidelines by serving malware to visitors. But the same image remained available on other sites that hadn’t run afoul of the rules.

    Google’s ad, shown above, leads searchers to, which apologizes to users who’ve “had an upsetting experience using Google,” and explains the company’s policy on offensive content:

    “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.

    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 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.”

    Note that if you don’t see the image, you may have your “SafeSearch” settings switched to off. Oddly, it only appears when you use the Moderate or Strict SafeSearch options. Look for your settings underneath the search box.

    As Barry Schwartz points out on Search Engine Roundtable, Google runs a similar ad in its main search index on the query jew.

    And, in 2006, Google also bought ads to explain why George Bush’s page on ranked first for “miserable failure”:

    See Danny Sullivan’s Google Kills Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs for more on how Google eventually changed its algorithm to remove from the top spot on that search term.

    For now, at least, there’s no such algorithmic change in place for the Michelle Obama image search result.

    About The Author

    Matt McGee
    Matt McGee joined Third Door Media as a writer/reporter/editor in September 2008. He served as Editor-In-Chief from January 2013 until his departure in July 2017. He can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee.