EARLIER THIS WEEK, Google Maps suffered the latest in series of embarrassing occurrences. It was discovered that when searching for “n***a house” and “n***a king,” Maps returned a surprising location: the White House.
[Were people really searching the terms as quoted, with the ***?]
The comments to that piece quickly get around to the obvious question, somehow not addressed in the main story. Precisely how was this hatefact discovered? Presumably, some right-thinking person had to spend quite some time entering slurs into search engines in search of grievance fodder.
As the story explains, Google Maps isn’t to blame here. It’s a crowdsourcing algorithm, so if enough people refer to a location as “n***a house”, it becomes a digital fact on the ground of sorts. What neither the story nor the comments address is the issue of what to do about this. Oh sure, Google Maps will manually fix such inexcusable lapses. But the problem goes deeper. If a significant number of people think this way, then something must be done about them. Surely their identities can be discovered — nobody is truly anonymous on the web. Shall they be publicly shamed? Fired from their jobs? Thrown in prison for life?