Google ‘tech error’ wipes out one of history’s greatest PMs
A photo of Winston Churchill bizarrely disappeared from Google's homepage yesterday, with a leading cyber expert accusing the tech giant of deliberately removing the image.
Following a search for "World War Two leaders", Churchill's headshot was strangely absent, despite photos of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Benito Mussolini still being proudly displayed.
Images of Britain's wartime leader were still displayed on Google image searches yesterday, but Churchill's photograph had been removed from Google's biography of the world leader, displayed alongside internet search results.
The search giant yesterday apologised for the image's disappearance yesterday, blaming the incident on a technological error.
The statement said images like the one removed of Churchill are "automatically created and updated," and the removal was "not purposeful and will be resolved".
"During an update, they can briefly disappear," the Google employee said, assuring users the issue is "temporary and will be resolved".
"We don't have an exact time for when (the image) will be restored, but it will be as rapidly done as possible," the Google representative said.
"We'll want to explore exactly why an automatic update caused it to disappear and see if there are any improvements in those systems to address."
UNSW Canberra Cyber director Nigel Phair said Google's explanation didn't sound credible.
"Google is a pretty well-oiled machine when it comes to you know what they do online. And I wouldn't think they'd have hiccups and blips or anything like that," he said.
"It seems it seems pretty odd to me."
Mr Phair said Google could have been "trying to appease their loyal readership by you know trying to get on the front foot".
It comes after protesters graffitied a London statue of the world leader during Black Lives Matter protests, with vandals spraying "was a racist" underneath Mr Churchill's engraved name.
The statue has now been boarded-up and hidden from view to prevent further attacks.
Mr Churchill's granddaughter has even suggested that the statue might have to be put into a museum to protect it.
"But I think Parliament Square would be a poorer place without him," Emma Soames told the BBC.
Military historian Professor Peter Stanley yesterday suspected the photo had been removed because someone working for Google believed it could cause offence.
He said anyone trying to censor history was "reacting in a knee jerk way".
The UNSW Canberra historian said images - and statues - of Churchill shouldn't be removed or vandalised for his past views.
"To remove them is to excise history not to understand it," Professor Stanley said.
Professor Stanley said Churchill did have some racist views, but those needed to be viewed in historical context.
"We need to understand both the bad things (Churchill) did but also the good things," Professor Stanley said.
"If anyone single-handedly won the Second World War it was him. We can't throw out all the good things he did."
Some internet users yesterday said the photo's removal could have been a glitch, but commenters overwhelmingly accused the tech giant of censoring the image in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Originally published as Google's 'tech error' wipes out one of history's greatest PMs