The company apologised on Sunday morning for the disappearance of the picture from its “knowledge graph” listing, adding that many photos of Churchill could still be found on its search engine.
In a statement made on Twitter, Google’s search liaison team said: “We’re aware an image for Sir Winston Churchill is missing from his Knowledge Graph entry on Google. We apologise for any concern. This was not purposeful and will be resolved.”
The problem, which was fixed at around midday on Sunday, was allegedly not specific to Churchill, with a similar problems occurring with images of former prime ministers Harold Wilson, Ramsay MacDonald and Stanley Baldwin. The search giant suggested images can disappear temporarily during an update.
Conservative MP Simon Clarke was among those who commented on the issue during the ensuing backlash on social media.
Mr Clark wrote on Twitter: “Mind blowing if this is deliberate policy, @Google. Western Europe would almost certainly be enslaved if it wasn’t for the man whose photo is now absent.”
A debate over the legacy of Churchill and other historical figures has grown in recent weeks after anti-racism protests gathered momentum across the county.
Last weekend, a statue of Churchill in London was defaced with the word ‘racist’ during a protest.
Boris Johnson subsequently said that attacking statues amounts to “lying about our history” and that protests had been “hijacked by extremists”.
Ha. Just tried it for myself. Are our tech overlords at Google are joining the street-level iconoclasts by defacing history on the Internet? pic.twitter.com/SwhO6ib1Ut
— Sohrab Ahmari (@SohrabAhmari)
Groups of far-right activists, who called themselves “statue-defenders”, gathered in London on Saturday claiming they wanted to protect the capital’s monuments.
Protesters however engaged in violent clashes with the police, launching objects such as glass bottles and smoke grenades at officers. More than 100 people were arrested as a result of the skirmishes.