While people questions loomed about the Illinois, Arizona, and Florida primaries on Tuesday in light of the coronavirus, the Democratic Party’s donkey symbol quietly changed to a rat on Google search results. Once the change was noticed, the symbol trended on Google.
The result showed up on Google’s knowledge panel for a short time on Monday, March 16 whenever people searched for Democrat Party or Democratic Party. It’s not clear how the symbol ended up on the panel, but it prominently replaced the correct symbol of the donkey.
Google eventually removed the photo from the knowledge panel. But now the donkey isn’t there either. A search for the Republican party, followed by choosing the “more political parties” option used to show the Democratic party’s symbol as an option. Now it just shows an empty space where the donkey symbol used to be.
A Google spokesperson told Mashable that the results are automatically generated. They 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.”
Heavy checked the Democratic Party’s Wikipedia page for any signs of similar symbol changes, but didn’t see any. Instead, there was a prominent discussion on the talk page from editors about whether or not Elizabeth Warren is a progressive, dating back to November 2019. More recent discussions and changes dated to March 9, 2020, but nothing related to the rat symbol.
One of the first to discover the change was Under the Breach, who posted about it on Twitter earlier today.
They noted that after the change, the symbol was trending.
The data monitoring and prevention service noted that the photo’s use in the knowledge panel seemed to originate from a forum post. It appears it might be from a post on Armchair General that was made on February 20 where a user shared the same logo and wrote “The new Democratic party logo.”
Someone commented, “What a coincidence! This is the Year of the Rat!”
No, Google wasn’t hacked. It appears to just be a case of the algorithm working strangely when populating the knowledge panel.
The forum doesn’t appear to be the first time the logo has appeared in reference to the Democratic party. A blog post by 56PackardMan from January 13, 2020 also used the same rat logo among many other images. A post from back in August 2019 by The Patriot Post uses the same rat image except with the header “New Dem Logo,” and on August 3 the same image appeared in a discussion forum online. The same rat image was shared on ImgFlip seven months ago, but it’s labeled “The Demonrat Party.”
In other words, this image has been circulating for months and months online, jokingly referred to as the new Democratic party logo in many discussions.
Of course, people on Twitter immediately had to share the search results when they noticed the change.
Billy Prempeh, a Republican who is running for Congress in New Jersey, also shared the search results.
And here’s a video showing just how the search results worked.
The image has been removed from Google’s knowledge panel.