Google has issued an apology for showing the White House in Maps search results when people search for a specific racial slur. Variations of the phrase deliver similar results.
The issue was first unearthed earlier this week and has taken Google two days to resolve. The company says its ranking system is largely to blame — essentially, because some have taken to calling President Barack Obama that “n—– in the White House,” Google Maps added this to its results.
“This week, we had some problems with Google Maps, which was displaying results for certain offensive search queries. Like many of you, we were deeply upset by this issue, and we are fixing it now. We apologize this has taken some time to resolve, and want to share more about what we are doing to correct the problem,” the company wrote in a blog post.
The Google Maps algorithm uses content from around the Web, like blogs and online discussion boards, to serve up relevant results. In this case, offensive search terms automatically turned up in Google Maps because its agnostic ranking system picked up on racist conversations happening around the Web.
The Google Maps team says it’s in the process of changing over its algorithm so that these kinds of results don’t appear.
“Our team has been working hard to fix this issue. Building upon a key algorithmic change we developed for Google Search, we’ve started to update our ranking system to address the majority of these searches—this will gradually roll out globally and we’ll continue to refine our systems over time. Simply put, you shouldn’t see these kinds of results in Google Maps, and we’re taking steps to make sure you don’t,” the company says.
Sadly, the incident reflects more poorly on humanity than it does on Google’s technology.