Google's result for Republican senator shows image with 'bigot' written across it

The image was pulled from a 2012 blog post.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read
A Google search for "Trudy Wade" shows an image with "BIGOT" written on it.

A Google search for "Trudy Wade" shows an image with "BIGOT" written on it. 

Screenshot by Abrar Al-Heeti/CNET

If you do a search for "Trudy Wade" on Google , you'll see a quick description on the right about the Republican state senator from North Carolina. 

Next to that description you may also have seen, on Friday, an image of Wade with the word "BIGOT" written across it. 

It was the latest incident in which Google displayed erroneous and biased information in its search results. On Thursday, the company listed Nazism as the ideology of the California Republican Party, in effect highlighting some of automation's shortcomings. Google algorithmically pulls from high-profile sources such as Wikipedia for general explanations and backgrounds. But Wikipedia sometimes has its pages "vandalized," or edited to deliver a certain message or opinion. That led to incorrect information showing up in a search on the CAGOP on Google.

In response to that previous incident, Google said: "We don't bias our search results toward any political party. Sometimes people vandalize public information sources, like Wikipedia, which can impact the information that appears in search. We have systems in place that catch vandalism before it impacts search results, but occasionally errors get through, and that's what happened here."

The image of Wade is from a Feb. 2012 post by a blogger named Matt Comer. He wasn't happy that Wade, who was on the Greensboro City Council at the time, supported a state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriages and civil unions. Comer wrote, "Let me put this as plainly as I can: Mrs. Wade, you are a bigot." Comer didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

A Google representative said information and images from its knowledge panels, which are intended to provide quick search results without making users click on links, are "automatically sourced from around the web." 

Google removed the "BIGOT" image Friday afternoon. The representative added that individuals can also "suggest edits and request to change their primary photos on Knowledge Panels" by getting verified. Anyone with a knowledge panel can click on the link underneath the panel to be verified.

Google Communications also tweeted an apology to Wade on Friday evening, reiterating that "Images that appear in the Knowledge Panel are either selected by verified users or are automatically sourced from sites across the web."  

Wade is currently running for re-election against Democrat Michael Garrett. She didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

First published June 1, 3:39 p.m. PT
Update, 5:09 p.m.: Adds comment from Google.
Update, June 4 at 11:02 a.m.: Adds apology tweet from Google Communications.