Yikes, we need a moment to wash our eyes with cool, clear water after looking at that thing . OK: Google is refusing to remove a picture of Michelle Obama Photoshopped to look like a monkey from image search results.

Update: Well, Google didn't want to pull the image, but whoever was running the spammy blog that was turning up high in Google searches has decided to remove it. "Hot Girls" (hosted by Google-owned Blogger) appears to mostly be spammy linkbait. The post that used to have the image now has a message in Chinese and English generated by Google Translate:


I am very sorry for this article, andthat this is the program automatically issued a document from the article. Do not the subject of race and politics make the discussion too radical and sincere hope that the world is very peaceful.

(We will not reprint the photo here, since that will boost its rank. But if you're feeling too optimistic about the world just do a Google image search for "Michelle Obama"; the photo should be in the first page of results. Or you can check out TPM's coverage here.)

The image was hosted on one of those obscure malware-spewing blogs that seem to have no point except to contain phrases like "Jennifer Lopez Sex Tape Free Cadillac Adam Lambert Boyfriend" in order to lure unsuspecting searchers. (It's been removed from the site, but still appears in search results.) Somehow, the picture rose through the ranks to become often the first result seen by anyone googling "Michelle Obama". (IRONY ALERT: The Washington Post reports that a Google spokesperson posited the pic's high ranking might be the result of people linking to it to condemn it.)

About two weeks ago, the blog Search Engine Roundtable pointed out that, Uh, Google? You're image search is acting sort of like a guy who lives in a compound in Montana and searches the web for tips on cleaning his high powered rifle while muttering misremembered passages of the Declaration of Independence to himself! But Google refused to take the image down, instead appending a little ad which directed offended searchers to a page explaining that:

The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results... We do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it.

Don't judge a company by its search results.

It's hard not to agree with Google on this: If they start removing every image someone finds offensive then the only results left will be pictures of babies dressed up as flowers. (Although: child labor!) But it's also hard not to really wish that picture was gone. So, here is a plan: If someone can get their social security number imprinted on every copy of the image then Google will take it down, as social security numbers are one of the few things they're willing to remove from search results.

Come on, take one for the team!