Starting in early August, people began to notice that when keywords such as “white American doctor” and “white American nurse” were typed into Google images’ search engine, images of black doctors and nurses were shown instead. People drew attention to this incident on Twitter by posting about it.
— MyCool King (@iPullRank) August 8, 2020
Likewise, when other related keywords such as “white American family” and “white American builder” were searched, similar search results appeared. These results suggest that Google’s search engine is biased, with some people on Twitter claiming that Google’s algorithm has been hacked.
i did the searching for white american doctor on google and thought i’d try with other careers 🤣🤣 PLEASE pic.twitter.com/CeTEYk5Hwj
— niall (@outspokenegro) August 7, 2020
Lmaooo idk who hacked the google algorithm but I am crying 💀😂😂google ‘white American doctor’ & press images 😭
— mykala🥺 (@__TheProphecy) August 6, 2020
However, Danny Sullivan, Google’s public search liaison has made it apparent that this is simply not true. Last year when a similar instance happened, he explained why this phenomenon occurred via a Twitter post:
We don't. As it turns out, when people post images of white couples, they tend to say only "couples" & not provide a race. But when there are mixed couples, then "white" gets mentioned. Our image search depends on heavily words — so when we don't get the words, this can happen.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) January 3, 2019
What Sullivan is saying is that when someone first posts an image, what keywords they associate with that image affects what appears in searches. How users search for these keywords also affects this. So, while there are various rumors that the Google algorithm was hacked or that there is a glitch in the system, these types of search results are in fact a completely normal and basic component to SEO, or search engine optimization and not a result of a hacker or a glitch in the system.