Google says Churchill image missing because of bug in system

Winston Churchill's image briefly disappeared from Google search results because it was being updated to be more representative of the former prime minister, the tech giant has said.

However, that update had been delayed by a bug in Google's system, the firm said in a statement.

It comes after some users complained that Churchill's image was not appearing in search results for UK prime ministers, although his name was still listed.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden was among those to express "concern" and said he had spoken to the tech giant over the incident, which occurred during the ongoing debate about Churchill's statue in Parliament Square, which was boarded up last week.

Following claims from some that the missing image was a political move, Google said it was sorry for the concern and insisted it was "not purposeful".

The company said it was a result of the firm updating the featured image of Churchill from one of him as a younger man to another of him when older, which the company said was when he was "more famously and iconically pictured".

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Winston Churchill - Nat Farbman/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images
Google apologized after a photo of Winston Churchill disappeared from searches for World War II leaders and UK Prime Ministers
Photo non datée du Premier ministre britannique Winston Churchill faisant le signe de la Victoire à Londres

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson decries attacks on monuments and urges protesters to avoid demonstrations that end in violence.  

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, 1874 1965. British politician and Prime Minister of England. From The History of the Great War, published c. 1919 (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) visits Harrow School, Middlesex, 10th November 1960. Churchill was a pupil at the school from 1888 to 1892. (Photo by Harry Benson/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) his wife Clementine (1885 - 1977) at the Wren Chapel of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, 20th July 1959, to attend the christening of his their 10th grandchild, Rupert Soames, son of Christopher Soames MP. They are accompanied by their grandchildren, Charlotte, Nicholas and Jeremy Soames. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) attends an annual sing-song at Harrow School, of which he is an Old Boy, 27th November 1958. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II chats to British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) whilst waiting at Waterloo Station in London with Prince Charles and Princess Anne, 24th November 1954. They are awaiting the return of the Queen Mother from her travels in Canada and North America. (Photo by Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
24th November 1954: The Queen Mother (1900 - 2002) arrives at Waterloo Station after her tour of Canada, and is welcomed back with a hug from her grandson Prince Charles. Also there to greet her are Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Princess Anne, prime minister Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) and Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden (1897 - 1977). (Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill smiles after attending the christening of his youngest granddaughter, Charlotte Clementine Soames, (held by her mother), at Westerham Parish Church on November 6th. The baby is the fourth child of Captain Christopher Soames and the former Mary Churchill. Soames is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Winston. Captain and Mrs. Soames are at right, while Lady Churchill stands to the left of the Prime Minister. The three other Soames children in the foreground are: Nicholas, (taller), Emma, and Jeremy.
British politician and Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) stands with a foal on his estate at Chartwell, near Westerham, Kent, England, 1950. He had been Britain's Prime Minister during World War II (unitl 1945), and served again from 1951 - 1955. (Photo by Mark Kauffman/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)
British politician and Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) stands with a foal on his estate at Chartwell, near Westerham, Kent, England, 1950. He had been Britain's Prime Minister during World War II (unitl 1945), and served again from 1951 - 1955. (Photo by Mark Kauffman/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)
Lord Rector of Edinburgh University', 1929, (1945). Students carry British politician and statesman Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) in a chair from MacEwen Hall to the Union Club after his election as Rector. Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. From 'The Life and Times of Winston Churchill', by Malcolm Thomson. [Odhams Press Limited, London]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, British Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, U.S. General William Hood Simpson, U.S. General William Shaffer Key and some soldiers travelling on the Rhine on a U.S. landing craft. France, 25th March 1945 (Photo by Mondadori via Getty Images)
5th July 1945: The British statesman Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874 - 1965) greets the crowd at Woodford during his tour of London. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
With the Prime Minister of Canada', 1929, (1945). British politician and statesman Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), left, and his son Randolph (1911-1968) with Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950). Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. From 'The Life and Times of Winston Churchill', by Malcolm Thomson. [Odhams Press Limited, London]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
Election at Epping', 1924, (1945). British politician and statesman Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) campaigning as a Constitutionalist before the General Election in which he won the seat of Epping in Essex. Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. From 'The Life and Times of Winston Churchill', by Malcolm Thomson. [Odhams Press Limited, London]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
Honorary Degree at Oxford', 1925, (1945). British politician and statesman Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), left, is awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Laws by Oxford University. With him are Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, centre, and Admiral Jellicoe, right. Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. From 'The Life and Times of Winston Churchill', by Malcolm Thomson. [Odhams Press Limited, London]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
With General Diaz and Field-Marshal Haig', 23 October 1919, (1945). British politician and statesman Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), right, and Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig (1861-1928), centre, welcome General Armando Diaz (1861-1928), left, at Victoria Station in London. Diaz was Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Armies. Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. From 'The Life and Times of Winston Churchill', by Malcolm Thomson. [Odhams Press Limited, London]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
Early Schooling at Brighton', 1884, (1945). Portrait of British politician and statesman Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) aged ten, wearing a bowler hat. He attended a private school in Brighton, Sussex, before going to Harrow. Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. From 'The Life and Times of Winston Churchill', by Malcolm Thomson. [Odhams Press Limited, London]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
Mr. and Mrs. Churchill in the Early Twenties', 1923, (1945). British politician and statesman Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) and his wife Clementine (1880-1977). Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. From 'The Life and Times of Winston Churchill', by Malcolm Thomson. [Odhams Press Limited, London]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
Winston Churchill Playing Polo', 1920s, (1945). British politician and statesman Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. From 'The Life and Times of Winston Churchill', by Malcolm Thomson. [Odhams Press Limited, London]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
Signing Autographs in the North Country', circa 1945. British politician and statesman Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) in the north of England. Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. From 'The Life and Times of Winston Churchill', by Malcolm Thomson. [Odhams Press Limited, London]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
In 1888, Winston S. Churchill went to Harrow', c1888, (1945). From Winston Churchill: His Life in Pictures, by Ben Tucker. [Sagall Press, Ltd., London, 1945] Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 7/22/1944- Caen, France: Prime Minister Winston Churchill speaks to some to troops who led the assault on D-Day. General Sir Bernard Montgomery is just visible behind Mr. Churchill.
(Original Caption) 01/10/1944-Algiers: Prime Minister Winston Churchill,shown here w/ some of the "boys",is smiling for the camera for the first time since his recent illness & donned his famous siren suit & a colorful dressing gown for the occasion. L.to R.: General J.F.M. Whitely Air Marshal Sir Arthur W.Tedder,who is Deputy Commander of the Allied Forces in the European Theater;Admiral Cunningham;Gen.Dwight D.Eisenhower;Gen. Harold Alexander;Prime Minister Churchill;Lt.Gen.Sir Humprey Gale,Gen.Sir Henry Wilson & Gen. Smith.
Four-year-old Esperanza Echeverria Armoux, winner of a contest sponsored by the Mexican government for ideas for posters supporting the Allies during World War II, circa 1943. She is standing in front of a photograph of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and making a V-sign. (Photo by Pix/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (center) gestures to residents of Bristol, which came under heavy bombing by Germany. "We shall let them have it back," Churchill told the bombing victims. Behind Churchill is American Ambassador John G. Winant.
Winston Churchill watches a flying German V-1 Buzz Bomb attack in Southern England with his daughter Mary during World War II. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
British Conservative politician Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) is carried home from a nursing home in the West End of London, after an attack of paratyphoid fever, 10th October 1932. (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
8th October 1918: Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) is escorted through the yards by girl workers whilst on his visit to the north just before the end of the Great War. (Photo by A. R. Coster/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Secretary of State for War of the United Kingdom and future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspecting a unit of the British troops of occupation in Germany. Germany, June 1919 (Photo by Mondadori via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Mr. Winston Churchill photographed in 1916 during the First World War. He served as a major with the Grenadiers and later commanded the 6th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers.
1912: Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874 - 1965), British Statesman and Prime Minister inspecting the boys from a training ship. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Sir Winston Churchill as a young man, British Prime Minister, 1874-1965. (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)
A young Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965), the future British Prime Minister, with his mother the American heiress Lady Jennie Jerome, and his brother John Strange Spencer-Churchill. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
BLADON, OXFORDSHIRE - JANUARY 25: A general view of Sir Winston Churchill's grave in the cemetery of St Martin's Church on January 25, 2017 in Bladon, Oxfordshire. Winston Churchill was buried in the graveyard of St Martin's, Bladon after his state funeral on January 30, 1965. The village church is not far from his birthplace at Blenheim Palace. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Press photographers in position for the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in London. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Sir Winston Churchill's coffin is carried aboard the Havengore, a ceremonial launch at Tower Pier in London. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
The gun-carriage bearing the coffin of Sir Winston Churchill emerges from New Palace Yard, Westminister, at the start of the State funeral procession to St Paul's Cathedral. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Sir Winston Churchill's coffin being carried into St Paul's in London. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
The Heralds on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral for the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill at St Paul's Cathedral in London. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Borne by Guardsmen, the coffin of Sir Winston Churchill leaves St. Paul's Cathedral, London, after his funeral. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
The gun carriage carrying the coffin of Sir Winston Churchill crossing Trafalgar Square, London, with Admiralty Arch in the background. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
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The company said the update to the Knowledge Graph – the prominent panels which appear at the top of search result pages – had taken place at the end of April following user feedback, but a bug in its systems had resulted in the new image not appearing.

"Following our procedures, human reviewers processed the feedback, determined the image wasn't most representative of Churchill and we blocked the unrepresentative image to allow the systems to automatically select a different one, according to our policies," the tech giant said.

"Normally, the image would update quickly. In this case, a bug in our systems prevented a new representative image from updating. As a result, Churchill's entry lacked an image from late April until this weekend, when the issue was brought to our attention and resolved soon after.

"We apologise again for concerns caused by this issue with Sir Winston Churchill's Knowledge Graph image. We will be working to address the underlying cause to avoid this type of issue in the future."

Google also confirmed it was looking into why the first terms of some UK prime ministers, including Churchill, Harold Wilson, Ramsay MacDonald and Stanley Baldwin were not being properly shown in the Knowledge Graph.

"It might be that our systems are only displaying the last term of prime ministers who had non-consecutive terms. We'll seek to address this to avoid any unintentional concern," Google said.

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