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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

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.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?