On Sunday, Google announced that it would explore why the picture of Britain’s World War II leader Winston Churchill disappeared from a top search results list of former UK prime ministers, during a controversy over his record on racism.
Google said the photo’s removal from its horizontal list atop search results for former British premiers was due to automatic update and “not purposeful”, but apologized “for any concern”.
The company noted that the issue only applied to its so-called “knowledge graph” listing and that many images of Churchill were still easily found on its search engine.
The firm’s search liaison arm said on Twitter that “We’re aware an image for Sir Winston Churchill is missing from his knowledge graph entry on Google. We apologize for any concern. This was not purposeful & will be resolved. Images in such panels are automatically created & updated. During an update, they can briefly disappear. We’ll want to explore exactly why an automatic update caused it to disappear & see if there are any improvements in those systems to address.”
However, the change provoked a swift backlash on social media.
Conservative lawmaker Simon Clarke said tat “Mind blowing if this is a deliberate policy, @Google. Western Europe would almost certainly be enslaved if it wasn’t for the man whose photo is now absent.”
Britain’s WWII prime minister has become engulfed in controversy after a Black Lives Matter protest in central London last weekend led to his statue being defaced with the word “racist“.
Current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who wrote a biography of Churchill, has called his targeting “absurd and shameful” and said anti-racism protests have been “hijacked by extremists”.
Thousands of self-styled “patriots”, backed by far-right groups, assembled in central London on Saturday vowing to guard statues and memorials there.
The gathering led to violent clashes with police, who made more than 100 arrests and saw six officers injured.