November 25th, 2009
12:52 PM ET
8 years ago

Google apologizes for results of 'Michelle Obama' image search

Type 'Michelle Obama' in the popular search engine Google, and one of the first images that turns up is a picture of the American first lady.

Type 'Michelle Obama' in the popular search engine Google, and one of the first images that turns up is a picture of the American first lady.

(CNN) - For most of the past week, when someone typed "Michelle Obama" in the popular search engine Google, one of the first images that came up was a picture of the American first lady altered to resemble a monkey.

On Wednesday morning, the racially offensive image appeared to have been removed from any Google Image searches for "Michelle Obama."

Google officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Google faced a firestorm of criticism over the episode. First, it banned the Web site that posted the photo, saying it could spread a malware virus. Then, when the image appeared on another Web site, Google let the photo stand. When a Google image search brought up the photo, an apologetic Google ad occasionally appeared above it.

The ad redirected users to a statement from Google which read, "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."

The California-based company then explained that search results rely on computer algorithms that take into account thousands of factors.

Full story

Updated: 12:52 p.m.

Filed under: Michelle Obama • Popular Posts
soundoff (114 Responses)
  1. TomPA

    Search Images for "Pope" and you get many offensive images, including Pope Benedict with a Swastika in the back ground. Why doesn't Google apologize and pull the Catholic bigotry sites? Oh... that is free speech.

    November 25, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I am disgusted and agog. I also understand Google's predicament. However two very good points were made: oust the perpetrator, and let people know that hiding behind Free Speech to express racism will not be accepted. This is the FLOTUS. Even a child knows when they've gone too far. There are jokes and then there is this type of cr*p.
    America, how far we've come and yet not far enough. I am ashamed of my country at times like these, I truly am.

    November 25, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  3. Jeff

    How in the world can anyone blame Google? They are a search engine, not, at least in this case, a content provider. They are not the internet police. And, I know this is a concept liberals despise – there is freedom of speech in this country, no matter how offensive the speech may be.

    November 25, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  4. Karen

    Racist right wingers at it again........

    November 25, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  5. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    That's right, neoclowns, direct your hatred at the president and first lady. Y'all are too gullible and ignorant to see that unregulated global capitalism is the root cause of all of the problems that you whine about. But just keep on believing that social mobility and participatory democracy are real. After all, if TV says it, it must be true. Have a nice day!

    November 25, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  6. Anee

    I love how the same people who are outraged by the photo were cheering on those who posted similar pictures of Bush and Condi.

    November 25, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  7. Tommygunn

    When it comes to GOOGLE and certain PUBLIC figures, pictures like this SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED (put under constant review/scrutiny) and the PERPETRATOR PERSECUTED!

    I would not like to see this done to Mrs LAURA BUSH or any other noble figure. This is an AMERICAN image that must be protected and freedom of speech done in a different media (personal).

    There is nothing funny about this......and it can be managed at a company level......

    November 25, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  8. Chicago11

    Truly disgusting. Racism at its worst. Don't defend these people.

    November 25, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  9. Laverne

    No wonder Mrs. Obama feel America can be mean spirited! Just look at the things she and her family have to endure on a daily basis. Hateful, hurtful and unnecessary mean spirited attacks. Ms. Obama you are a beautiful, classy American woman and I am so proud to call you the first lady of the United States.

    November 25, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  10. rachel

    Well, that sucks, now where is the out rage over doctored Hillary photos?

    November 25, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  11. Mississippi Mrs.

    Very bad behavior to be sure. Ms. Obama has enough of a burden to bear being married to such an egotist, and being a bit of a snob herself. It is hard (for me), to respect the office and the occupants of the White House at present. They are hurting this country, but do not deserve to be hurt by stupid pictures. We have to have a sense of humor to get through these times, but this is not funny... just stupid.

    November 25, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  12. A. Goodwin

    CNN should investigate who posted the original picture and make that a story. Google can not be responsible for this content...but the person who doctored the photo and thought this was acceptable SHOULD be held responsible. This is NOT free speech...this is outright racism.

    November 25, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  13. joe

    The press was merciless on the Bush daughters and now Michelle (aka RuPaul) gets a little heat and you all cry foul. You cant have it both ways, either you want to be in the public eye or you dont? Take the good with the bad cause she'll only have to put up with it for 1 term.

    November 25, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  14. RICO

    I agree with the last paragraph of this story, the person that posted the picture should be the one getting all the flack for this. Why is google responsible for it? Google is a search engine and will often bring up things that might be offensive to some, but to censor pictures because someone might find it offensive would be impossible. Google would have to censor more than half of its websites links.

    November 25, 2009 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  15. sue murphy

    The picture of Michelle Obama is an outrage & proves there is still racism in the United States. For Google not to delete it is an insult to all American & what this country is supposed to stand for. Every one is freaking out about Adam Lambert’s performance on the AMA but I haven’t heard much apprehension about this hideous picture. As a civilized society, we have got our priories screwed up, it is dreadful & appalling.

    Michelle Obama is classier then Jackie O, fought as hard for civil rights as Eleanor Roosevelt, as smart as Hilary Clinton, supports our armed forces, concerned about our children’s education, health care, the environment, the finest first lady this country has ever had and a beautiful person, inside & out. This is the way we repay her? It’s a SIN !!!

    November 25, 2009 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  16. Mitch

    So Google is not responsible for the content posted to its website?

    Hmmm...then why do they act responsible when it is a Chinese website? They monitor content going into that country but they cannot own a problem when it comes to a site in the US.

    My best guess is that those in power at Google just think Google is bigger than any one person and shouldn't have to be responsible for the content. After all they are just distributing HATE worldwide and not writing it themselves. If a picture captures a thousand words then what do you think the one of Michelle is saying Google?

    November 25, 2009 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  17. A.K.

    And then some lunatic is actually gonna (try to) claim that this has nothing to do with racism, but an exercise in free speech. Unbelievable...

    November 25, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  18. NVa Native

    Insulting the First Lady with racist propaganda, how disgustingly un-patriotic. These despicable tea-baggers and neo-cons have no shame or morals.
    Tea-baggers and neo-cons will sacrifice everything and everybody to promote their political ideology.

    November 25, 2009 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  19. Eric-31m

    Did google do the same thing with the web site that compared Bush to monkeys? What a double standard we have. Unbelievable.

    November 25, 2009 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  20. Alpha Male

    There will always be hatred of what is good and beautiful.

    November 25, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  21. Crow

    Very interesting. Try "googling" George Bush and view all the unflattewring images which appear ~ none of which any one seems to complain about ~ nor which Google disavows...

    November 25, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  22. Dean

    The extreme right wing has nothing better to do with their time then degrade the current administration and alter photos of the first family.
    Sick people they are.

    November 25, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  23. Donna Casey in Ruth, CA.

    Thank you CNN for not reposting the image.

    However, the owner of the blog (and the original posting site) should have their name and address posted PUBLICLY to out them as a bigot... since they want to be so publicly a racist, they should stand up and take their PUBLIC bow.

    It's what so wrong with the internet - the apparent anonymity that allows such racists haters to spew their filth while they suck down Budweisers and get their point of view from Fox Noise from the TV perched on the refrigerator in their 1970's singlewide.

    November 25, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  24. Sgt. USMC

    Look, this is probably not the first time Mrs. Obama has ever had to deal with racists. It's not going to be the last. But that's what makes this country beautiful. We've come so far and still have far to go but we don't give up. We went from slavery to the first black President, that is progress people. If there are still some who choose to live in the past then let them stay behind the rest of us. We are better for it because we are not the slaves, those people who feed on hatred are. God Bless America.

    November 25, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  25. Ken in NC

    And people say that the treatment of this president is no different from the treatment given former president Bush. That is a load of crap. It's pure racism. It's sad to see that there are so many hateful people in this country that claims to have moved past this racism thing. I know and admit that there are a lot fewer racist people in this country but it takes only one rotten apple to spoil the barrel and there are still some rotten apples in this country.

    November 25, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
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