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Why photos of Winston Churchill disappeared from Google search results

In a mysterious case, photos of Winston Churchill stopped appearing on Google search over the weekend. As many tried to look for British Prime Ministers and list of World War II leaders, images of the former UK PM were not visible on the search engine’s results.

The development left netizens baffled online, with many tagging the tech giant demanding answers. Although the company ‘fixed it’ following to outrage, people have sought a proper explaination.

As people searched with his name, a black box appeared instead of Churchill’s photo. People on social media were quick to point out that pictures of Adolf Hitler, Stalin and Mao were still displaying on the search engine

The latest episode comes after a Black Lives Matter protest in central London last weekend led to Churchill’s statue being defaced with the word “racist”.

#Churchill‘s picture has been reinstated after being blacked out by @Google.

For hours, we lived in a world where Churchill, who helped defeated Nazism, had been removed for being “racist”, while Hitler and Stalin, two of the greatest mass murderers, were visible.

Scary times!

— Julie Lenarz (@MsJulieLenarz) June 14, 2020

The tech company on Sunday reacted to the complaints by the users and apologised for the error. Taking to Twitter, the US-based company wrote: “This was not purposeful & will be resolved. Images in such panels are automatically created & updated. During an update, they can briefly disappear”.

In a serious of tweets, the company claimed the glitch was temporary and blamed an update for the unwanted error. “If a Knowledge Graph image is missing due to an update, the subject will be named but lack an image in anything automatically generated from the Knowledge Graph. This is why Churchill’s image (but not his name) is missing from some lists. It is temporary & will be resolved”.

As some highlighted that the search engine was showing only one-term of his reign in office, alleging the company was purposefully trying to hide his legacy, Google said, “It shows an automatically generated Knowledge Graph list. This is not specific to Churchill”.

While resolving the issue, the company also added, “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, netizens were not impressed with their apology and demanded to know the main reason behind it. Many also have been either sharing photos of Churchill online in his honour.

Earlier this week, current British PM Boris Johnson reacted to the controversy surrounding Churchill’s legacy and how his statue was targeted by demonstrators. “The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country — and the whole of Europe — from a fascist and racist tyranny,” he tweeted.

“We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history. The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations,” he added in a serious of tweets saying “Yes, he sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today, but he was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial.”



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