- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bad image

The world’s most powerful search engine has removed an unflattering image of first lady Michelle Obama so it no longer is displayed prominently in its “safe” image rankings and comes with an “offensive image” warning for those using more liberal search functions.

Google initially removed a racially-charged image of Mrs. Obama caricatured as a chimpanzee, saying the image served malware, or programs that can infect user computers, to people who clicked on it. But later, the image appeared for users using Google’s more sweeping image searches, called “moderate” and “strict,” although it would not appear for those using a “safe” search, designed to filter out offensive content. For most, it was listed as the No. 1 search.

And now, an “offensive content warning” appears on the advertising space when someone enters “Michelle Obama” into Google’s image search, using the “moderate” and “strict” settings. The warning contains a link to a statement from Google explaining its decision to show the image.

“The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results,” Google said in a statement attributed to the “Google Team.” “Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, 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. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.”

Targeting the Jewish

A similar “offensive search results” statement is provided in Google’s advertising space when a search for “Jew” is entered into the search engine’s main search field.

“If you recently used Google to search for the word ‘Jew,’ you may have seen results that were very disturbing,” the Google Team warns users. “We assure you that the views expressed by the sites in your results are not in any way endorsed by Google. We’d like to explain why you’re seeing these results when you conduct this search … if you use Google to search for ‘Judaism,’ ‘Jewish’ or ‘Jewish people’ the results are informative and relevant. So why is a search for ‘Jew’ different? One reason is that the word ‘Jew’ is often used in an anti-Semitic context. Jewish organizations are more likely to use the word ‘Jewish’ when talking about members of their faith.”

Rebranding Dobbs

The fierce immigration hawk and former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, who has been dipping his toes into the political arena, tried to convince Hispanics they could trust him during an appearance on Telemundo, the Spanish television network.

Mr. Dobbs has hinted at a possible 2012 presidential run but has indicated that making a play for the seat currently held by Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, is also a possibility. To win the seat, he’ll need to make significant inroads with the state’s Hispanic community, and Mr. Dobbs’ Telemundo appearance on Friday may be the first attempt at rebranding himself as a softer, friendlier, immigration activist.

“Whatever you have thought of me in the past, I can tell you right now that I am one of your greatest friends and I mean for us to work together,” he told Telemundo’s Maria Celeste. “I hope that will begin with Maria and me and Telemundo and other media organizations … in this national debate that we should turn into a solution rather than a continuing debate and factional contest.”

Security pricing

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, lambasted Democrats who are proposing a war surtax to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mrs. Palin posted a note to her Facebook account late Tuesday that aggressively questioned the idea that’s been broached by Rep. David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

“Really?” Mrs. Palin asked. “A tax on national defense? I hear liberal congressional proposals and I, like most Americans, wonder if they’re serious. We’re going to put a price tag on security?”

Mrs. Palin said Congress should use the existing tax structure to pay for defense spending, rather than imposing new taxes to protect the nation.

“With Congress and President Obama spending money on everything at breakneck speed, it’s interesting that they are only now getting nervous about spending - but only when it comes to providing the necessary funds to complete our mission in Afghanistan,” she said. “They don’t need a new ‘war tax’ to fund a strategy for victory in the war zone. They simply need to prioritize our money appropriately.”

“I find it telling that the Pelosi-Reid Congress is only cost-conscious when it comes to our national defense,” Mrs. Palin added. “Scary. Nonsensical. Unacceptable.”

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter @washingtontimes.com.

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