Google has taken down a survey that asked users to pick the image they liked ‘best’ from a set of children’s photos.
The survey had to be completed before users could access an article on child sex abuse investigations on a regional newspaper website.
Google claims that an unnamed firm was using the survey to decide which child should front its marketing campaign.
Following a backlash, Google has now removed the ‘distasteful’ survey and says the link with the sex abuse article was not intentional.
It’s a question that most people would be hard-pushed to answer – which child do you like best? The question featured in a recent Google survey that an unnamed firm was using to decide which child should front its marketing campaign
Google Surveys is a product by Google that lets companies create customised market research.
The product was designed by Google as an alternative to internet pay walls for websites that publish content.
While the surveys are designed by the companies, they must meet Google’s content and editorial guidelines.
The survey first appeared on the Gazette Live website on an article titled: ‘Cleveland Police investigating ’20 to 30′ historic child sexual abuse cases.’
Viewers were asked to select an image of one of four children, in response to the question: ‘Which child do you like best?’
It was noticed byAlexi Mostrous, head of investigations at The Times, who tweeted an image of it, along with the caption: ‘Hi Gazette Live, what kind of screwed-up algorithm is responsible for asking readers to select which child they ‘like best’ before displaying a story about child abuse?’
Such surveys are designed to generate revenue, by allowing companies to conduct market research.
And while the surveys are designed by companies, they must meet Google’s strict guidelines.
The survey was commissioned and designed by an unnamed business seeking to choose a child to front its new marketing campaign.
It was targeted at a representative UK population sample that wasn’t based on users’ browsing history.
The survey was noticed by Alexi Mostrous , head of investigations at The Times, who tweeted an image of it, along with the caption: ‘Hi Gazette Live, what kind of screwed-up algorithm is responsible for asking readers to select which child they ‘like best’ before displaying a story about child abuse?’
Google says that the survey was seen by fewer than 100 people – with less than a few dozen choosing to complete it.
Following Mr Mostrous’ tweet, both Trinity Mirror (which owns Gazette Live) and Sky News contacted Google, and in response, Google has now removed the survey.
A spokesperson for Google told Sky News: ‘Google Surveys provide businesses with a simple platform for conducting consumer research to inform marketing decisions, such as testing which image would work best in a marketing campaign.
‘While we don’t believe at this time that the survey was the result of any malicious behaviour, we quickly recognised that it was distasteful and the survey has been removed.’