Update at 11 a.m. ET: Since we first posted on this subject, the website that apparently posted the photo has taken it down.
USA TODAY's On Deadline notes that this message has gone up on the webpage where the photo had been:
I am very sorry for this article, andthat this is the program automatically issued a document from the article. Do not the subject of race and politics make the discussion too radical and sincere hope that the world is very peaceful.
So now, a Google Image search does not turn up the image.
Here's our original post:
By Mark Memmott
A disgusting photo illustration of first lady Michelle Obama that turns up when anyone does a Google Images search on her name is disturbing, the search engine giant concedes.
But in a statement that's showing up along with searches about the first lady, Google says:
Sometimes Google search results from the Internet can include disturbing content, even from innocuous queries. We assure you that the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google.
Search engines are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Internet. A site's ranking in Google's search results relies heavily on computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page's relevance to a given query.
The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.
We apologize if you've had an upsetting experience using Google. We hope you understand our position regarding offensive results.
We're not going to help spread the illustration by posting or linking to it. Obviously, it's not hard to find. Stories about it — and Google's response — are showing up across the Web, though, and Google's response is worth noting.
The BBC adds that:
The picture first surfaced earlier this month, when it was removed because the site hosting it violated Google guidelines by spreading so-called malware — malicious software designed to infiltrate other computers.
But the image has now reappeared on another site, apparently untainted by malware, and therefore Google is bound by its own rules not to meddle with the search, say technology analysts.