Earlier this week, it was discovered that certain offensive search queries on Google Maps were pointing users in the direction of U.S. landmarks, including the White House. It was the latest of several incidents surrounding the service and highlighted an unfortunate side effect of the ranking system that Google had put in place.
In a blog post on Thursday, Google explained that its “ranking systems are designed to return results that match a person’s query.” What this means is that Google’s system would see these offensive terms used in relation to specific locations on the map and would then assume that users searching for these terms on Google Maps would expect to be directed to those locations.
Here’s what Google’s Jen Fitzpatrick, VP of Engineering & Product Management had to say regarding the issue:
“Our team has been working hard to fix this issue. Building upon a key algorithmic change we developed for Google Search, we’ve started to update our ranking system to address the majority of these searches—this will gradually roll out globally and we’ll continue to refine our systems over time. Simply put, you shouldn’t see these kinds of results in Google Maps, and we’re taking steps to make sure you don’t.”
Google apologizes for the incident and promises to do better in the future.