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Google Knowledge Panel Shows Wrong Man as Serial Killer via @sejournal, @martinibuster



Hacker News was buzzing with because of a report that Google was showing the image of an innocent man in a Knowledge Panel about a notorious serial killer and rapist.  The subject of the wrong image wrote a blog post about his experience and a lively discussion about how unreliable Google’s Knowledge Panel is ensued.

Google’s Knowledge Panel published the following entry with an innocent man’s face:

“Hristo Bogdanov Georgiev, also known as The Sadist, was a Bulgarian rapist and serial killer who murdered five people, mainly women, between 1974 and 1980.”

Google Knowledge Panel and Authoritative Sources

The Knowledge Panel is a feature that provides immediate information about entities (people, places and things). Google typically sources the information from authoritative sites about celebrities and user-vetted websites like Wikipedia.

Google might even set up a direct relationship with authoritative sites to show their data in the search results.

Knowledge Panel Images Not Always Authoritative

Although the textual information is strictly controlled, it appears that Google’s image information is not as rigorously controlled for quality.


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According to Google’s help page about Knowledge Panels:

“Images that appear in the knowledge panel can come from several sources. One source is those individuals that have claimed their knowledge panels and selected a featured image from images available on the web.

Other images (especially when there is a collection of multiple images) are a preview of Google Images results for the entity and are automatically sourced from across the web.”


The fact that Google uses images from across the web, with apparently less strict quality control, may account for why the images were mixed up.

Both the serial killer and the innocent man in the serial killer Knowledge Panel are natives to Bulgaria, although the innocent man currently works in Switzerland.

It’s possible that the algorithm matched the innocent man’s image to the serial killer because their names matched and they were both from Bulgaria.

So the algorithm determined that this was a possible match for a search for this particular name.


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Man Tweets About Terrible Mix-up

A man in Switzerland named Hristo Georgiev wrote a blog post relating that a former colleague emailed him to let him know that Google was showing an image of his face within a Knowledge Graph for a search query for a man with the same name who was a notorious Bulgarian serial killer.

He wrote:


“I quickly popped out my browser, opened Google and typed in my name. And indeed, my photo appeared over a description of a Bulgarian serial killer.”

He went on to post a tweet about it.

“Seems like Google falsely associated a photo of mine with a Wikipedia article of a serial killer. I don’t know if this is hilarious or terrifying.”

The innocent mans initial reaction was that he was the victim of a prank. He expressed confusion of why this would happen to him because his name was a common one.

“…my name isn’t special or unique at all; there are literally hundreds of other people with my name, and despite of all that, my personal photo ended up being associated with a serial killer.”

He wrote that he filed a report with Google about the incorrect Knowledge Panel.

A staff software engineer on Google’s Chrome team tweeted seven hours after the initial tweet about the issue that he understands that Google was in the process of handling the problem.

“hey, sorry about this. FWIU this is being handled.

(I don’t represent Google in my tweets)”

Fake News, Cancel Culture and Career Impacts

It was just a few years ago that Google’s Knowledge Panel proclaimed a Battlestar Galactica actor, Paul Campbell to be deceased even though he was very much alive, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.


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But apparently a casting director communicated to the actors agent that he thought the actor had died.

While the innocent man in this situation took it all in stride, he did pause to reflect on how these kinds of incidents can have a negative impact.

He wrote:

“…the fact that an algorithm that’s used by billions of people can so easily bend information in such ways is truly terrifying.”


Blog Post from Subject of Knowledge Panel Error
Google Turned Me into a Serial Killer

Hacker News
Google Turned Me into a Serial Killer


Google Knowledge Panel Help Page

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Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster



Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”



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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.



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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.


But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.


One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.


Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

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