Racist query terms in Google Maps trigger the White House in results

A Google spokeswoman apologized for the issue, but did not explain what causes it

Google Maps, pictured May 20, 2015, lists the White House among top search results for certain queries containing racist terms against African-Americans.

Google Maps, pictured May 20, 2015, lists the White House among top search results for certain queries containing racist terms against African-Americans.

Google Maps lists the White House among top search results for certain queries containing racist terms against African-Americans.

The Washington Post first reported the issue after a reader alerted the newspaper that entering a well-known racial slur while Google Maps is focused on the nation's capital yielded the White House as the first result. The result comes up when using Google's mobile Maps app, as well as its Maps web site.

Regardless of the user's location within Maps, a search for another racially insulting term against blacks listed the Underground Railroad TV station in Chicago as the top result, with the White House coming in second. Other similarly racist query terms also gave the White House as the top result, along with the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in Big Rapids, Michigan.

Some racist queries returned seemingly arbitrary results, such as stores and universities that don't seem to be specifically identified with African-Americans.

The issue raises questions about the inner workings of Google's web crawler, and how the search engine matches query terms to results.

When asked to comment, a Google spokeswoman said the company is sorry that some "inappropriate" results are appearing in Google Maps, and said it's rushing to fix the issue. She didn't explain what caused the results. However, she clarified that the results are not related to Google's recent shutdown of its Map Maker service, which let regular people add and edit places within Google Maps.

Earlier this month, Google said it was temporarily shutting down the service, partly due to a rising level of abuse by spammers. Google previously apologized after an image of the Android mascot appeared in Google Maps urinating on the Apple logo.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesGoogleMapsmobileinternetsearch engines

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?