Until today, a Google Image search for "Michelle Obama" yielded, as the top result, a manipulated photo of the First Lady in which she resembles a monkey. Despite a slew of complaints that the image is overtly racist, Google declined to remove it, citing free speech concerns, but did add a warning above the photo. Though the blog “Hot Girls,” which hosted the offensive shot, eventually removed it from its site, the question is: Should Google do more to police offensive subject material? (Watch a report about Google apologizing for an offensive photo of Michelle Obama.)
Google did the right thing in leaving it up: "It's hard not to agree with Google on this," says Adrian Chen at Gawker. It's the classic slippery slope fear: "Removing every image someone finds offensive" will just leave the Internet with "pictures of babies dressed up as flowers." Nevertheless, the Obama-monkey image is clearly in poor taste, and we understand why people "really wish that picture was gone."
"Racist pictures of Michelle Obama will live on forever in Google image search"
Google facilitated a ruse: It would be one thing if the site hosting the picture were a legitimate enterprise, says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. But "it's just a useless bot blog" that orchestrated "a ploy to get more hits for the site." Google's "total lack of accountability" here can't just be blamed on "algorithms or optimization."
"Google's Michelle Obama fail"
Google's back-door solution is worrisome: "Hot Girls" is actually the second site to host the photo, says Derek Thompson at the Atlantic. Despite Google's free-speech policy, it banished the first site, claiming it was unsafe and "could spread a [virus]"—a "too-convenient" rationale. That looks to me "an awful lot like censorship" by a company which poses as "the editor in chief of the Internet."
"Google, Michelle Obama, racism and what the Internet is for"