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Google Confirms Fireworks Display Over Highland Park Shooting News in Search Engine Was an Accident

The company told Gizmodo that the Easter egg was part of its annual July 4 tribute. It took down the animation as soon as it saw the unfortunate faux pas.

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A white Google logo is shown against a wooded backdrop.
Google drew scrutiny after it displayed fireworks and the American flag next to search results related to the Highland Park shooting on July 4. The company said it was an accident.
Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty Images)

Google didn’t mean to display cheerful fireworks and an American flag in front of breaking news articles about the shooting in Highland Park, Illinois that left at least seven people dead and injured more than two dozen. In fact, when it found out that users were having that experience on its search engine, it immediately took down the animations.

The world’s most popular search engine drew scrutiny this week after its annual animations to celebrate Fourth of July, which Google refers to as “Easter eggs,” shared the screen with articles about the Highland Park shooting. On social media, many onlookers ironically, and some dejectedly, pointed out that the unfortunate faux pas was actually a perfect representation of the U.S., which has experienced at least 320 mass shootings in 2022 alone.

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“No this is going perfectly right. All of that news is what you celebrate when you celebrate America,” Twitter user @chaoticgaythey said in response to seeing the fireworks and shooting news side by side.

This, of course, wasn’t on purpose, Google told Gizmodo on Tuesday.

“This easter egg is a long-standing tribute for the Fourth of July that automatically shows up on searches related to the holiday. In light of yesterday’s tragic events, we suspended the tribute,” Google spokesperson Colette Garcia told Gizmodo in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

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A video of the PR kerfuffle from Twitter user @sawbuckwine began making the rounds on July 4 and by Wednesday morning had 1.3 million views, as well as thousands of retweets and replies.

On Tuesday, Lake County State attorney Eric Rinehart announced that the shooter, 21-year-old Robert Crimo, had been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, according to CNN. If Crimo is convicted, he could face a mandatory life sentence. More charges against Crimo, including attempted murder and aggravated battery, are expected to be filed.

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Google regularly rolls out Easter eggs for holidays around the world. As such, theoretically, this could have happened during any holiday. Intention and follow-up actions count though, and the company did take down the Easter egg. It’s clear that Google didn’t want to make light of a tragedy, but those can be hard to anticipate these days, especially in the America.