Google crowdsourcing crisis highlights dilemma for brands seeking to empower public

Google crowdsourcing crisis highlights dilemma for brands seeking to empower public

Google has officially set things straight after its crowd sourcing approach to content building led to the appearance of racial slurs in Google Maps search results.


The search algorithm responsible for stirring up controversy made it so that users who searched for the terms “nigga house” or “nigger king” on Google Maps were directed to the White House. The result appeared as a clear slur directed toward President Obama and the First Family. In different cases, a search for “nigger university” directed users to Howard University, a historically black university, also located in Washington, D.C.


Google was quick to apologize for the offense after it was brought to light. The company assured the public that it would work hard to resolve the crisis as swiftly as possible.


Screen shot of Google Maps showing the location of The White House

The Google Maps algorithm accidentally implicated racial slurs to the President of the United States, his family, and a well-renowned university. (

This crisis situation is rife with examples of positive crisis communications on Google’s part: a sincere apology, a reassurance of corrective action, and finally, prompt follow-through on that promise.


That being said, this situation also introduces an interesting new dilemma that changes the dynamics of crowd sourcing related crises. How can a company like Google hope to empower users without heightening the risk of a potential PR scandal? The unfortunate reality is that this empowerment is not possible.


As Google continues to transform how users not only work with the internet but also interact with and influence it, the company cannot cut out the liability of foul play. There will always be individuals who, once given the power to influence things like search findings on a map application, will forgo responsibility and misuse that power. This is not the first time that Google has been forced to face this the hard way, and it will most certainly not be the last.


Positive intentions and the dedication to improving its user interface protect the Google brand as it encounters any and all possible challenges that may stem from crowd sourcing.


Do you think Google’s interest in crowd sourcing is a positive step forward for the brand, or that it is more trouble than it is worth? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi

Tamara Rahoumi

Tamara Rahoumi is a third-culture kid of Egyptian descent who was born and raised in New Jersey. She loves experiencing new things, and is in a constant state of wanderlust. She has spent a year studying in Switzerland and another teaching in Albania. Tamara graduated from Rutgers University, where she studied political science and cultural anthropology. She reports on a variety of stories for MUIPR. Follow Tamara on twitter @tamarahoumi.

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