Google has claimed there is a perfectly benign reason for Winston Churchill’s photograph disappearing from its search engine – but many are unconvinced, as the iconic British PM is now in the eye of the protest storm.
Eagle-eyed internet users raised hell after discovering that Churchill – who led the United Kingdom through World War II – was faceless when listed in Google’s knowledge panel, which provides general information about common search queries.
Winston Churchill photo disappeared from Google
In a list of UK prime ministers generated by the tech giant, Churchill lacked a photograph, while his predecessors and successors were all given portraits.
“Utterly disturbing that such a company can have that power to censor our British history,” wrote one outraged Twitter user.
Google has removed Churchill’s photo out of all the previous Prime Minister’s photos.
Utterly disturbing that such a company can have that power to censor our British history.
— Adam Brooks (@EssexPR) June 13, 2020
Conservative MP Simon Clarke argued that Western Europe would likely be “enslaved” without Churchill, and expressed hope that Google hadn’t intentionally removed his photograph.
Google insists it was an accident
“We’re aware an image for Sir Winston Churchill is missing from his knowledge graph entry on Google,” the firm’s search liaison arm said on Twitter.
The company soon acknowledged the error, but they insisted it was not purposeful and would be fixed.
We’ve now resolved the issue that was preventing the picture of Sir Winston Churchill from being updated to appear in his knowledge panel and Knowledge Graph-related lists. Again, this was not purposeful. Our apologies for the concerns caused. pic.twitter.com/qoH2tEWhhq
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) June 14, 2020
“Images in such panels are automatically created & updated. During an update, they can briefly disappear,” Google said in a statement on Twitter. “We’ll want to explore exactly why an automatic update caused it to disappear & see if there are any improvements in those systems to address.” The company later announced that the issue had been resolved.
Could anti-racism protests be the reason?
Breitbart journalist Chris Tomlinson suggested there was something sinister afoot after pointing to the fact that a statue of Churchill in London had only recently been boarded up, purportedly in an effort to shield it from Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
Anger over the decision to cocoon the Churchill statue, along with other monuments, led to counter-protests in London and other British cities over the weekend. Scuffles with police and BLM demonstrators broke out after crowds of veterans and other self-described patriots showed up, saying they were attempting to guard the landmarks from harm.
All around the world, protests have broken out following the murder of George Floyd and racist and colonial statues are being broken down by protestors.
The New Zealand city of Hamilton tore down a statue of the colonial military commander after whom it was named, joining a growing list of places worldwide that are reckoning with their past.
A crane hoisted the bronze sculpture of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton from the town square Friday morning after requests from local Maori and threats from anti-racism protesters to topple it.
Hamilton City Council acknowledged the statue’s extraction was part of a push to remove memorials “which are seen to represent cultural disharmony and oppression” sparked by global anti-racism protests.
“I know many people -– in fact, a growing number of people –- find the statue personally and culturally offensive,” mayor Paula Southgate said.
“We can’t ignore what is happening all over the world and nor should we. At a time when we are trying to build tolerance and understanding… I don’t think the statue helps us to bridge those gaps.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said a wave of anti-racism protests across Britain had been “hijacked by extremists”, as fears mounted about clashes between activists and far-right groups. This comes amid the anti-racism movement which has enveloped much of the West, including Britain which has prompted the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to defend statues, deeming that the figures memorialised represent a part of British history.
In London, authorities boarded up several statues, including of World War II leader Winston Churchill, after previous damage and with further demonstrations planned.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said the monuments, as well as the Cenotaph war memorial, were being protected against the risk of “disorder, vandalism and violence”.
Statues and monuments to figures involved in Britain’s colonial past and the international slave trade have become increasing targets for activists over the last week.
Their targeting has prompted calls for a re-examination of the country’s historical legacy.
But while recognising the “legitimate desire to protest against discrimination”, Johnson said in statement issued on Twitter: “We cannot now try to edit or censor our past.
The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country – and the whole of Europe – from a fascist and racist tyranny. 1/8
— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) June 12, 2020
On Sunday, crowds in southwest England toppled a statue to a local slave trader and philanthropist, Edward Colston, and threw it into the harbour, prompting calls for others to be removed.
RT with additional input by GVS News Desk
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