If you Google image search “idiot” right now, you’ll find images of President Donald Trump. Online activists, in protest of Trump’s policies regarding unauthorized immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community, among others, are pushing his portraits to the top by manipulating the search engine’s ranking algorithm, as first reported by The Guardian earlier this week.
The association between Trump and the word “idiot” was partly sparked by London protesters’ choice of the Green Day song “American Idiot” during the president’s English visit. But Redditors have also jumped on the bandwagon and upvoted posts of Trump with the word “idiot,” which encouraged Google’s search algorithms to associate the two together.
Google doesn’t interfere with its search results much, and it has in the past openly talked about its lack of direct oversight. That can lead to highly controversial images remaining online, to the chagrin of groups and minorities. In 2004, when anti-Semitic imagery appeared for the search term “jew,” Google did not remove the images but instead displayed ads beside it, explaining how its search results were calculated. A site’s ranking depends on “thousands of factors,” Google explained in a public post that is now taken down (but has been preserved by books and articles), meaning that sometimes “subtleties of language cause anomalies to appear that cannot be predicted.”