Google’s image search equates Mitt Romney with ‘completely wrong’

11 Oct 2012

If you search the term ‘completely wrong’ on Google Images, you’ll turn up a page of pictures of US presidential candidate Mitt Romney – and it’s not even a Google bomb.

As the day wears on and more media outlets cover this story, the results will contain more images from online articles with screenshots of earlier searches, and it will all become a bit meta. But why did this ever happen in the first place?

The immediate suspect was a Google bomb. This is a technique that tries to direct search terms to certain pages by getting others to link to these pages using those terms. There have been many noted examples and US political figures are no strangers to Google bombs. During George W Bush’s presidency, a search for ‘miserable failure’ brought users to his official biography on the White House website.

Google has developed a special filter to prevent Google bombs from happening, but some still slip through the net. However, Google has stated that the Romney image results are not the result of a Google bomb but the consequence of a series of articles online associating Romney with the words ‘completely wrong’.

Users will notice that the images at the top of the search results are all quite recent, with a time stamp indicating when they were posted. This is part of Google’s service, surfacing results that are fresh and current. Many articles used this term and Romney’s image following the first presidential debate, which explains the organic nature of the results and also why the joke will slowly be destroyed the more we discuss it online alongside other images. Oh well.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.