Google Users Shocked When Nazi Image ‘Pages’ Appear From Harmless Search Term | Science | New
The disturbing result is shown when the phrase ‘desk ornament’ is entered into Google Images – with dozens of the top results being images of Nazi sculptures. The images included ornaments bearing the shape of the swastika symbol, the double lightning bolt logo of the Schutzstaffel (SS), and the Nazi-era Reichsadler (“Imperial Eagle”). These were interspersed with other images of more conventional objects like desk globes, hourglasses and Newton’s cradles.
On Reddit, users responded in shock — and speculated on what caused the phenomenon.
User _BassDoll wrote: “When you google ‘Desk Ornament’ the result is… well, disturbing. Pages and pages of swastikas, imperial eagles and Nazi memorabilia, all from websites soldiers and Nazis.
“I would say it was a 4chan psyop, but I scrolled pol [the anonymous political discussion image board on 4chan] for a while and no one was talking about it, and 4chan isn’t really secretive about this stuff.
Supergatovisual added: “Same results with DuckDuckGo and Bing, wtf?
User MK2555GSFX, meanwhile, had an explanation for the phenomenon: “It’s because the pages are absolutely FULL of the phrase ‘desk ornament'”
One of the offensive images, he showed, came from a site that presented that search term 108 times, putting the finger on the scales of Google’s algorithm.
A Google spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We understand that these results are concerning and we share the concern about this content. It does not reflect our views.
“When people search for images on Google, our systems rely heavily on matching the words in your query to the words that appear next to the images on the webpage.
“We have done considerable work to improve the instances where we return poor quality content, and we will continue to improve our systems.
“We are actively working on evolutionary improvements that we believe should improve the results of this query and others like it.”
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Google said they have, for several years, had a permanent, fully staffed team working on the challenge of ensuring that the platform’s algorithms reduce the potential for returning offensive results like these Nazi ornaments.
They added that when identifying areas for improvement, they focus on creating solutions that improve results for a large number of queries, rather than individual result pages with poor results.
One can only assume that’s why the “desktop adornment” problem isn’t a recent problem – but a problem that was happening already six years ago.
In 2016, the magazine website Cracked.com tweeted: “FYI, first page results for ‘desk ornaments’ Google images include: three swastikas, Hitler’s bust, weasel, two Nazi eagles, ‘Top banana’.”
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The persistence of the “desktop adornment” problem is all the more surprising, however, considering that Google suggested in 2020 that it was its policy to remove offensive and racist content from its platform.
The claim was made following a BBC investigation which found that white supremacist flags, neo-Nazi books and Ku Klux Klan merchandise were all available for purchase on Google, Amazon and Wish.
In response to the investigation, Google removed this content – along with racist material added to the Google Books and Google Play stores – and told the BBC: “We do not allow advertisements or products sold on our platforms which post offensive content or promote hatred.
“We vigorously enforce these policies and take action when we determine they are being violated.”
Later that same year, a Google spokesperson told Slate.com that they “have strict policies against content that promotes hatred, intolerance, discrimination, or violence against others.”
Despite this, however, the search term “desk ornaments” in Google Images still yields links to various websites selling Nazi paraphernalia.