A couple more cases of what could have been search engine optimization gone bad hit Google last week.
The search company, in a “knowledge panel” about the California Republican Party last week included Nazism as part of the party’s ideology. Google also displayed a photo of Republican North Carolina state Sen. Trudy Wade with the word bigot in red letters superimposed across it.
The gaffes led Google to apologize, but not before it came in for plenty of criticism from conservatives, according to Vice.
“It is disgraceful that the world’s largest search engine has labeled millions of California Republicans as Nazis,” said Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Majority Leader. “This is just the latest incident in a disturbing trend to slander conservatives. These damaging actions must be held to account. The bias has to stop.”
The incident could well be an instance of malicious search engine optimization. Vice reported:
Google’s “knowledge panels” are automatically populated from a variety of sources, including Wikipedia. “Sometimes people vandalize public information sources, like Wikipedia, which can impact the information that appears in search,” a Google spokesperson said, in a statement. “We have systems in place that catch vandalism before it impacts search results, but occasionally errors get through, and that’s what happened here.”
The spokesperson stressed that the “Nazism” listing was not due to any manual change by any Google employee and that the company does not manipulate search results to favor any political ideology over another.
In the incident involving the North Carolina senator, the photo came from a student news blog.
Vice called the image of Trudy Wade, “just the latest example of Google not vetting the information that gets pulled into its “knowledge panels,” which are meant to give users quick information without them having to click through search results (often on other, non-Google websites).”