On Monday, some pranksters took advantage of an opportunity provided them by the Democratic Party to change the Democrat logo on the Google results page for “Democratic Party” from the traditional donkey to a rat.
— BELAAZ (@TheBelaaz) March 16, 2020
As BizPacReview notes, “The apparent hack remained in place for at least 90 minutes before being corrected by Google’s emergency responders.” Mashable pointed out “Google’s so-called Knowledge Panel which, on Monday afternoon, displayed a multicolored rodent in all its red-white-and-blue glory.”
Google’s Knowledge Panel is an information box sitting to the right of search results. Google explains:
Knowledge panels are information boxes that appear on Google when you search for entities (people, places, organizations, things) that are in the Knowledge Graph. They are meant to help you get a quick snapshot of information on a topic based on Google’s understanding of available content on the web.
Knowledge panels are automatically generated, and information that appears in a knowledge panel comes from various sources across the web. In some cases, we may work with data partners who provide authoritative data on specific topics like movies or music, and combine that data with information from other open web sources … Knowledge panels are updated automatically as information changes on the web, but Google also considers changes in two main ways: directly from the entities depicted in the knowledge panel, and from general user feedback.
Mashable quoted a Google spokesperson who stated that Google was not to blame, the Democratic Party was because they hadn’t claimed their “Knowledge Panel. The spokesperson said, “Most images in Knowledge Panels are automatically generated from pages on the web. When errors are reported, we fix them quickly. We encourage people and organizations to claim their Knowledge Panels, which allows them to select a representative image.”
BizPac Review wrote, “It’s not known who may have manipulated the Knowledge Panel result, or if in fact it was some kind of random, algorithmic, karmic retribution for an incident in 2018 in which Nazism was listed on a Google Knowledge Panel as the ideology of the California Republican Party.”
History.com delineates the history of the Democratic Party and the donkey symbol:
The origins of the Democratic donkey can be traced to the 1828 presidential campaign of Andrew Jackson. During that race, opponents of Jackson called him a jackass. However, rather than rejecting the label, Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812 who later served in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, was amused by it and included an image of the animal in his campaign posters. Jackson went on to defeat incumbent John Quincy Adams and serve as America’s first Democratic president. In the 1870s, influential political cartoonist Thomas Nast helped popularize the donkey as a symbol for the entire Democratic Party.
American Heritage adds:
Nast’s donkey (or “jackass” as it was known then) first appeared in Harper’s Weekly on January 15, 1870, kicking a dead lion. Published barely a month after the sudden death of Lincoln’s former Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, the cartoon was a scathing invective against the Democratic, “Copperhead” press (named for its snakeish insidiousness), which was abusing Stanton’s memory. Nast’s cartoon, entitled, “A live jackass kicking a dead lion,” suggested the reverse of the old proverb, “A live ass is better than a dead lion.”