Struck by a succession of abusive scrawlings going live on its popular maps service, Google has apologized and promised to retool the service to prevent it from happening in future.
"This week, we had some problems with Google Maps, which was displaying results for certain offensive search queries," wrote Jen Fitzpatrick, a Vice President of Engineering and Product Development, explaining how Google's system slurped up the offensive terms because of how it incorporates "online discussions" of particular places. "… This surfaced inappropriate results that users likely weren’t looking for."
Earlier this week, it was found that when given offensive search terms, Google would return inappropriate locations. Queried with "nigga house," for example, Google would offer the White House.
Howard University, reported one internet user, "shows up as ‘N***er University’ on Google Maps."
The benefits of algorithmic changes will be seen soon, Fitzpatrick promised, and Google will continue to refine its software over time: "Simply put, you shouldn’t see these kinds of results in Google Maps, and we’re taking steps to make sure you don't."
Maps, like much in the Googleverse, is comprised significantly of information added by users or algorithmically incorporated into its dataset—unvetted and often dependent on community reporting when something goes awry.
Google recently shuttered another crowdsourced component of Google Maps due to repeated addition of naughty and offensive landscape features that were not, in fact, there. Read the rest