Tech

Google apologized for racist Maps issue showing ‘n***a house’ as White House

By April Taylor , May 22, 2015 07:14 AM EDT
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Google is officially apologizing for a Maps issue that directed users to the White House when searching for certain racist terms.

The company just recently had another issue with its Maps, when a map was found showing an Android logo urinating on the Apple logo. Google removed the graphic drawing and apologized for the occurrence, saying that it will take steps to ensure user input is more thoroughly scrutinized before becoming public.

A new problem has now affected its Google Maps service, as searching for certain racist terms would direct one straight to the White House. Jen Fitzpatrick, Google vice president of Engineering and Product Management, publicly apologized in a new blog post on behalf of the company, saying that Google was deeply sorry for this issue.

"This week, we had some problems with Google Maps, which was displaying results for certain offensive search queries. Like many of you, we were deeply upset by this issue, and we are fixing it now. We apologize this has taken some time to resolve, and want to share more about what we are doing to correct the problem," explained the company blog post on Thursday, May 21.

"At Google, we work hard to bring people the information they are looking for, including information about the physical world through Google Maps. Our ranking systems are designed to return results that match a person's query. For Maps, this means using content about businesses and other public places from across the web. But this week, we heard about a failure in our system-loud and clear. Certain offensive search terms were triggering unexpected maps results, typically because people had used the offensive term in online discussions of the place. This surfaced inappropriate results that users likely weren't looking for."

More specifically, when searching for terms such as "n****r king" and "n***a house," Google Maps returned search results for the White House. If users repeat a certain term over and over, Google automatically learns that behavior and delivers the most relevant results, based on the terms and what they are commonly associated with by users.

Google further revealed that it has started updating its ranking system, which is based on a key algorithmic change developed for Google Search, to address most of these searches. Google gradually will roll out the update globally, and will continue to work hard to refine its systems even further over time.

"Simply put, you shouldn't see these kinds of results in Google Maps, and we're taking steps to make sure you don't."

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