Google said that the disappearance of Sir Winston Churchill’s image from search results for Britain’s prime minister, spotted by observers during the weekend, was not “purposeful” but rather the result of a “bug in our system”.
Google’s public liaison for search Danny Sullivan argued on Twitter that the image of British legendary prime minister had actually disappeared from search results as early as April, as many complained that it was not “representative” of him due his apparent “young” age on the photo.
At the end of April, we received feedback that the image of Churchill automatically selected by our systems wasn’t representative of him. The systems had selected a picture of a younger Winston Churchill (shown below), while he’s more famously & iconically pictured when older... pic.twitter.com/eqEirPH6TV— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) June 14, 2020
The system was then expected to automatically select a new picture – something which did not happen due to an error in the system, Sullivan explained. However, the problem was not spotted until this weekend, when it was brought to public attention by numerous users amid an ongoing debate surrounding the figure of Churchill scrutinised by the Black Lives Matter campaign. According to Google, the issue has now been resolved. The company reiterated its early statement on the Google Support website that the move was not “purposeful”.
“We apologise again for concerns caused by this issue with Sir Winston Churchill’s Knowledge Graph image. We will be working to address the underlying cause to avoid this type of issue in the future”, Sullivan wrote on Twitter.
We’ve now resolved the issue that was preventing the picture of Sir Winston Churchill from being updated to appear in his knowledge panel and Knowledge Graph-related lists. Again, this was not purposeful. Our apologies for the concerns caused. pic.twitter.com/qoH2tEWhhq— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) June 14, 2020
The move, as well as Churchill’s image vanishing from Google search, outraged many British citizens and politicians. Prime Minister Boris Johnson even argued that it was “absurd and shameful” to have a situation whereby the monument of the wartime leader was at risk of being vandalized. He also pledged to resist any attempts to remove Churchill’s state from Parliament Square, something many BLM protesters have been calling for.