Editor’s Note: This story first appeared at Wired. We reprint in part here.
EARLIER THIS WEEK, Google Maps suffered the latest in series of embarrassing occurrences. It was discovered that when searching for “n***a house” and “n***a king,” Maps returned a surprising location: the White House. A search for “slut’s house” led to an Indiana women’s dorm. Initially, you may have suspected this to be the work of a lone vandal, or even a coordinated campaign. But Google Maps gave racist, degrading results not because it was compromised, but because the internet itself is racist and degrading.
That revelation comes from a Google statement posted yesterday evening. “Certain offensive search terms were triggering unexpected maps results, typically because people had used the offensive term in online discussions of the place,” wrote Jen Fitzpatrick, VP of Engineering & Product Management. “This surfaced inappropriate results that users likely weren’t looking for.”
It’s as remarkable as it is disheartening. What it shouldn’t be, though, is surprising.