President Obama, racism and online vandals

Someone has edited Google Maps so that by entering an offensive term (the n-word), plus “house” or “king,” many visitors are taken to the White House, as the Washington Post reported.

It worked for me when I tried this (I added Washington, D.C.)

The Internet, as we know all too well, can be ugly.

When President Obama signed on to Twitter recently, he was greeted with racist epithets, as Salon detailed.

But it’s not just Obama who is a target on Google Maps. reported that by searching for the n-word and “university,” historically black colleges such as Howard University and Lincoln University turn up.

The Google Maps issue is the latest for the search engine since it opened Maps for people to edit, Wikipedia-like. In one recent incident, Google’s Android mascot was spotted urinating on the Apple logo on a map of Pakistan, as we wrote.

Google told me that the issues with Map Maker are unrelated to the inappropriate search words being used on Google Maps:

The Map Maker shut down is unrelated to the inappropriate results surfacing on Maps at the moment. These results should not be surfacing, and we apologize for any offense this may have caused. Our teams are working to fix this issue quickly.

Last week, the search giant disabled the ability for people to edit on Map Maker, it said in a post.¬†Pavithra Kanakarajan, who is on Google’s Map Maker team, said the firm was suspending “auto-approval and user moderation across the globe, till we figure out ways to add more intelligent mechanisms to prevent such incidents.”


Meanwhile, Flickr, which is owned by Yahoo, is grappling with issues with its new auto-tagging service that has labeled some images of African-Americans as “animal” and “ape,” The Guardian reported.

Yahoo responded in a statement:

We are aware of issues with inaccurate auto-tags on Flickr and are working on a fix. While we are very proud of this advanced image-recognition technology, we’re the first to admit there will be mistakes and we are constantly working to improve the experience. If you delete an incorrect tag, our algorithm learns from that mistake and will perform better in the future. The tagging process is completely automated — no human will ever view your photos to tag them.

Above:  President Barack Obama (Jim WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Updated to include comments from Google. 


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  • Steve Hammill

    This is actually an example of free speech at its finest – really not much different than Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Racial epitaphs exist for the less literate to express themselves. It certainly shows the character of the people offering the corrections/additions to the map. …but make no mistake, they are not lone wolf commentators.

  • Craig Anderson

    I guess that’s what they mean by the expression “Calling a spade a spade…”

  • Craig Anderson

    Maybe it should be the terms: Charlatan and Washington DC
    Or King…
    Or (to borrow a term from Kim Jong Il or KIm Jong Un) – Supreme Leader…

  • ellafino

    People who resort to racial epithets and snide remarks only express their low level of intelligence. You need only read some of the comments to this article to see what I mean.