Google has blamed “vandalism” on Wikipedia for a search result that linked the California Republican Party to Nazism.
House Majority Leader and California GOP Representative Kevin McCarthy had criticized Google on Thursday for including a “Nazism” tag under the Wikipedia definition of the state party. McCarthy called it a “disgrace.”
In response, Google said the incident “was not the result of a manual change by Google,” but a change made by a user on Wikipedia that it had not caught through its vetting system.
“We have systems in place that catch vandalism before it impacts search results, but occasionally errors get through, and that happened here,” the company said in response to McCarthy.
Wikimedia Foundation — which hosts Wikipedia — echoed Google’s defense, saying that the search result was “drawn from a vandalized version” of a Wikipedia page. It said the reference to Nazism had since been removed.
“The vast majority of things you read on Wikipedia are accurate, but some are not,” the Wikimedia Foundation said in a statement. “Sometimes, information is out of date, needs a source, or is inaccurate due to simple vandalism. This is why we always encourage you to check our citations. When we learn about an error on Wikipedia, we’re grateful: it gives us an opportunity to correct the record.”
Google came under fire from U.S. conservatives last year after the firing of software engineer James Damore. Damore was dismissed after a memo surfaced in which he argued that fewer women were in tech jobs due to biological differences. The memo itself and Damore’s subsequent firing ignited outrage from both sides of the political spectrum. At the start of the year, Damore filed a class-action lawsuit against his former employer.
Conservative politicians and commentators have also criticized social media and other digital platforms for what they perceive to be unfair treatment and censorship of right-wing perspectives. In March, a U.S. judge dismissed a lawsuit against Google alleging that its video-sharing service YouTube had censored conservatives.
But concerns have mounted over whether platforms like Google and Facebook were used to spread misinformation to sway elections including the 2016 presidential vote that saw Donald Trump elected and the same year’s Brexit referendum in the U.K.
And politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are seeking answers from Facebook after it was revealed that the data of tens of millions were improperly shared with analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, whose backers support Trump.