Following a listing of Indian PM Narendra Modi in Google’s image search results on “top ten criminals of the world”, an Indian court has issued a notice to Google’s Indian head and CEO and registered a criminal case against Google.
Sushl Kumar Mishra, the complainant advocate, has said that Google’s image search for “top ten criminals of the world” showed an image of Modi in the search results. He wrote to Google to remove the photograph from the image results but he did not get a response from the company.
Other Government “Criminals”
Last year social media users had pointed out that searching for “top ten criminals in the world” would get you pictures of former US president George Bush, Libya’s former head of state Muammar Gaddafi and Modi. It also included others like chief minister Delhi Arvind Kejriwal, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt and an underworld big shot Dawood Ibrahim.
Of all the personalities lifted above, only one has, through the Indian courts, decided to do something about it.
Clarification by Google
Google was forced to issue a statement following the uproar and apologized for causing any confusion or misunderstanding. The company clarified that the results were not actually reflective of Google’s own opinions.
The company said in a statement:
Sometimes, the way images are described on the internet can yield surprising results to specific queries. We’re continually working to improve our algorithms to prevent unexpected results like this,
Google further stated that this was caused by a British daily using an image of Modi with wrong metadata. It was not due to a news article linking PM Modi to criminal activity.
One wonders what the response of the local authorities would’ve being if it were PM Nawaz Sharif in a similar situation.
The whole incident is worrying for a variety of reasons. For starters, India is putting pressure on an international tech giant to remove the search results.
Google’s Search algorithms are the reason for the company’s success in its early years. There’s a reason why the majority of people trust Google Search.
This case also reminds us of the reasons behind the ban of YouTube in Pakistan, which was lifted over a year ago. At that time, Google refused to remove an anti-Islam movie trailer, something that can be easily classified as hate speech. The refusal of Google back then to remove it also lead to protests and violence at many places around the world.
Google responded by rolling out a local version of YouTube tailored for Pakistani audience. In a similar vein, Google putting a disclaimer over the search results related to Modi would have been the end of the story.
The difference here is that the Modi incident was the result of Google algorithm doing its job, not a malicious intent from a random YouTube uploader. If this campaign by Indian court picks steam, Google’s struggles could just be beginning.