Reporting in both the UK and India showed that Google temporarily censored pictures of Winston Churchill, the British Prime minister who led the country during World War II.
The timing for omitting the search result from Google Images, reported both by The Sun in the UK and the Indian Express in India, during a weekend when statues of Churchill had to be covered up in London, seems conspicious.
The problem became obvious for journalists covering the recent anger of BLM protestors against statues referring to colonial figures of famous people with a ‘troubling past’.
Churchill’s statue in London had to be boarded up over fears it would be targeted once more by BLM protesters.
The overreaction became clear when this weekend even ‘Penny Lane’ in Liverpool, mostly known for being a worldwide hit by the Beatles, was graffitied over reading ‘racist’ as the name ‘Penny’ might just refer to a slave trader. The BBC’s iconic comedy show Fawlty Towers was also ‘temporarily’ hit with a ban which has by now been restored.
Over the weekend though, when ‘British prime ministers’ was typed into Google search, a black box appeared where Winston Churchill’s face should be. Images of all other British leaders appeared normal
British tabloid The Sun asked Google for information and received this reply: “”At the end of April, we received feedback that the image of Winston Churchill automatically selected by our systems wasn’t representative of him.
“The systems had selected a picture of a young Winston Churchill, while he’s more famously and iconically pictured when older.
“Following our standard procedures, human reviewers processed the feedback, determined that the image displayed wasn’t the most representative of Churchill, and we blocked the unrepresentative image to allow the systems to automatically select a different one.
“However, in this case, an error in our systems prevented a new, more representative image from being selected.
Twitter’s Churchill fans were quite unhappy with the news, especially since pictures of Hitler, Stalin and Mao are shown with no issues.
Over the weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had reacted to the boarding up of Winston Churchill’s statue. Johnson, who wrote a book about Churchill, said : “The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country – and the whole of Europe – from a fascist and racist tyranny.”