For those who still think that Google Images is a great tool to find images and that it is somewhat the savior photography, I suggest they perform a simple search for “Michelle Obama“, the first lady of the United States, and apply a “face” filter.

This is what you get on the first page:

Google image search

regardless of your political opinions, this is a revolting and pathetic search result for images. When confronted about this, Google hides behind its sanctified algorithms and claim innocence.  I am the first to praise the ability for technology to make our lives easier. However, technology without morality is violently dangerous and destructive for any society.

Freedom of speech, sure, as long as it doesn’t become freedom of insult. Robots, bots, algorithm to find the right images, sure, as long as the results are pertinent to the search. This is a good example of a world without photo editors. This is your images on Google.

UPDATE : Google refuses to acknowledge failure of it search algorithm. In an article published in the Los Angeles Times today, Google Inc. spokesman Scott Rubin said  :”It’s offensive to many people, but that alone is not a reason to remove it from our search index. We have, in general, a bias toward free speech.”.

While it is commendable for Google to support free speech, this is not the reason people are upset. The issue here is how an obviously inappropriate image of the first lady of America ends up on as the top result on a search for her name.  This is a complete failure of their search algorithm. Obviously, someone typing “Michelle Obama” and using the “Face only” filter is looking for a head shot of her, not a cruelly photo shopped image. If this type of result was offered on professional image licensing platform, like Getty, Vorbis or Alamy, clients would never come back.

Google, of course, cannot admit publicly that his search algorithm is a failure. That would send it’s stock price in the abyss as it is the core of their business. May this be a warning for those who still see Google and its image search as the perfect tool for photography.

Google image search china

Side by side comparison of the same Google image search for on the right, Google ( regular) and on the left, Google China.

Update 2:  Here is Google version of free speech ( apparently, its all relative) :

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