Recently, if you searched for the California Republican Party on Google, you might have read that the political party’s ideologies included conservatism, market liberalism, and nazism. The latter listing has since been removed, and Google is blaming the results on Wikipedia “vandalism.”
Vice first reported the inclusion of “Nazism” under ideologies in Google’s knowledge panel—the box that shows up to the right of search results. It’s unclear how long the term had been there, but the tech giant removed it after being notified by the publication.
“We regret that vandalism on Wikipedia briefly appeared on our search results,” Google tweeted on Thursday in response to California congressman and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “This was not the the result of a manual change by Google. We have systems in place that catch vandalism before it impacts search results, but occasionally errors get through, and that happened here.”
Linking to the Vice story, McCarthy tweeted that “this is just the latest incident in a disturbing trend to slander conservatives.”
Conservative sentiment that tech giants and their employees lean liberal, and silence or punish opposing ideologies, is certainly not unique. Just look at the momentum gained by the likes of James Damore and Peter Thiel. In this case, Google is pinning the blame on a Wikipedia troll, but it’s still disconcerting to see how easy it can be to manipulate the core product of one of the most powerful and influential companies in the world.
“We don’t bias our search results toward any political party,” a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo.
This is hardly the first time Google has come under fire for its search results and automated answers. Recently, Google’s autocomplete and related-search feature served up the names of legally protected sex and violent crime victims. After a gunman killed more than 50 people outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas in October, Google’s Top Stories wrongly identified the shooter after trolls on 4chan successfully gamed the system. The next month, after the massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Google delivered incorrect search results on the shooter in its Popular on Twitter module.