A Google spokesman said the gallery of photos is the unintentional result of normal Google analytics, which produce images associated with popular phrases in news headlines and search terms, and not the result of any effort to skew the results.
In this case, Google’s algorithms picked up on news coverage of Romney saying last week he was “completely wrong” when he made controversial statements last spring that 47% of Americans were “victims” and dependent on government. Romney took some political heat for the original comments, which were captured by a hidden camera at a private fundraiser in May and made public last month.
The former Massachusetts governor, speaking last Thursday on Fox News, disavowed his earlier statements.
“Clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” Romney said, “In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.”
The Google results page of Romney photos was noticed Wednesday by tech blog Mashable, a CNN.com content partner, and other news sites.
A Romney campaign spokeswoman declined to comment.
The episode recalls past examples of “Google bombs,” or intentionally skewed Internet search results, for politicians’ names. In perhaps the most famous case, pranksters in the mid-2000s created large numbers of links that caused Google to reference President George W. Bush (and later President Barack Obama) in response to searches for “miserable failure.” Google later tweaked its analytics to discourage the practice.
Another bombing campaign by opponents of former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum produces a fake definition for a sexual byproduct when Internet users search Santorum’s name.
Google says it tries not to handle strange search results on case-by-case, opting instead for making improvements to the search algorithms themselves.