Wade is a Republican state senator from North Carolina and an
enthusiastic supporter of President Trump.
if you search “Trudy Wade” on Google, the search giant displays an
old photo in the “knowledge panel” of its search results with
“BIGOT” superimposed in big red letters.
just the latest example ofGoogle
not vetting the informationthat gets pulled
into its “knowledge panels,” which are meant to give users quick
information without them having to click through search results
(often on other, non-Google websites).
declined to comment to VICE News, but a legislative aide reacted
angrily to the search results, adding that “the picture isn’t even
“Bigot” picture has surfaced as Wade is in the midst of a tough
re-election battle against marketing executive and Democrat Michael
Garrett. The state’s district maps were redrawn for this election
after several courts ruled that the state had been racially
gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.
newly redrawn state legislative districts have made Wade and the
27th district a top target for progressives in the state. The local
Indivisible group “Flip NC” has deemed the 27th one of its top 10
“most flippable” Senate districts this year as Democrats attempt to
break the Republican supermajority in the state legislature that
allows Republicans to override the Democratic governor’s vetoes.
News asked Google for comment before the story went online but did
not receive a response. After the story was published, Google took
down the photo and a Google spokesperson sent a statement that read:
"Information and images from our Knowledge Panels are automatically
sourced from around the web. When we are alerted to issues like
this, we move quickly to fix the problem, as we did in this case."
is not an isolated incident for the tech giant. On Thursday,VICE
News reportedthat Google had listed
“Nazism” as the primary ideology of the California Republican Party
in the “knowledge” box of search results.
acknowledged the error but said it wasn’t really their fault since
they rely on other sources like Wikipedia to populate the knowledge
panel. “Sometimes people vandalize public information sources, like
Wikipedia, which can impact the information that appears in search,”
a Google spokesperson said.
Google’s reliance on third parties for facts is leaving it open to
gamesmanship, particularly in an election year.
photo doesn’t come from Wikipedia but rather from aFebruary
2012 postfrom local progressive blogger and
LGBT activist Matt Comer, who was upset with Wade’s support of a
state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and civil
unions (which voters ultimately passed in May of 2012). “Let me put
this as plainly as I can: Mrs. Wade, you are a bigot,” Comer said in
his post. “In what just world is it appropriate to support a
constitutional measure that forever encases an entire minority of
people in second-class citizenship?”
both cases identified by VICE News involve Republicans, the
misinformation on Google likely isn’t about political bias so much
as its unwillingness or inability to monitor the meddling in search
results around hotly contested races.
Koebler argued, the “Nazism” controversy wasn’t evidence of
political bias but of the “limitations of Google’s algorithms, and,
more importantly, how Silicon Valley continues to get rich off its
cynical, damaging, and unfair over-reliance on Wikipedia’s volunteer
Wade is currently in a tough
reelection battle. It’s likely not helpful for her campaign to
have the image as one of the first things voters would see if
they Google her.
Google did not respond to
Vice’s request for comment on the matter, but the tech giant did
take down the image from Wade’s knowledge panel after the
This is not the first time
concerns have been raised about the information displayed in
Google’s knowledge boxes. On Thursday,Vice
reported“Nazism” was listed as the
primary ideology for the California Republican Party in the box
at top-right corner of its Google search result.