Much has been made about the racist image of Michelle Obama which depicts her with monkey features. Despite the fact that the picture – which was the top search result for ‘Michelle Obama’ on Google Images – is blatantly racist and offensive, Google refused to take it down. Search today and there’s many more ‘Michelle Obama as monkey’ images available. As a statement from Google read:
Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it.
And quite right too. Had Google removed the image on the basis that it was offensive, then surely it would have been the start of a very subjective and slippery slope. Had Google removed the image, then it would have been swamped with individuals and groups claiming that one image after another was offensive to them. Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and various types of pornography would have been the first of many, many millions of requests.
Whilst we may not agree with some images and indeed ideas – they may sicken, horrify, anger, upset and more – we must maintain the right to the freedom of expression which also must include the right to offend as well as the right to be offended. That is, as long as it remains within the boundaries of the law.
For all our sakes, we must defend the decision of those like Google even when it goes against all the things that we would normally stand for.
Everything on this site by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. www.chris-allen.co.uk.