Internet search giant Google apologised yesterday for any confusion or misunderstanding that arose over the listing of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photos appearing in image search results for query on “Top 10 criminals in India”.
But Modi is not the only misfit on that page. The search page also includes eminent public figures like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of Art of Living, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Lawyer and Politician Ram Jethmalani, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Bollywood actress Sonakshi Sinha.
So what exactly is going on? This isn’t the first time that Google’s algorithm has thrown up some completely whacked out results. A popular technique, known as ‘Google bombing’ was used by pranksters and SEO experts to make George W. Bush the first result for the term ‘miserable failure’.
If you take a closer look at the source for these results where Narendra Modi’s photo comes from, two of these are from Topyaps.com, which is creating a perfect viral storm with this post. Another one of these photos comes from a 2014 newswire where Modi promised that the Supreme Court will set up special courts to deal with politicians with criminal backgrounds. Scroll further down, and you now see reaction stories to this new development being indexed too.
As more and more stories connect Narendra Modi to the keywords “top 10 criminals” in news stories and on Twitter, this search result is likely to become indelible unless Google takes deliberate steps to remove Narendra Modi from the result. This is what they did with George W. Bush, who is no longer the top search result for "miserable failure".
Just a few weeks ago, users found out that typing “Nigga House” in Google Maps would direct the user to the White House. In that particular case, it turns out hackers had created a fictitious business which was verified by Google. The next step is to have this business reclaimed from another Google account, which then allows you to change the name and location of the business.
As long as Google remains the world's most popular search engine, SEO experts and hackers will continue their attempts to influence search results, for amusement and profit.