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See above Google News' error in publishing a photo of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a CBS News story. (Credit: Google News, screenshot, highlight added)

Was conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper involved in the Secret Service prostitution scandal that made the news yesterday?

Not likely, but Google News readers April 14 might have been misled by a major error on Google News’ website.

Turns out that Google News wrongly paired an image of Stephen Harper from a Globe and Mail report with a CBS news report on the prostitution scandal.

The Globe and Mail’s April 14 report was titled “Harper pitches Canada’s resource-friendly economy to Latin America.”   CBS News’ April 14 report was titled “Secret Service Supervisor in Prostitute Scandal.”

While the articles aren’t apparently related, the suggestion of this inaccurate pairing could be that Harper is the supervisor in question.  See below.

See above the Google News error, which wrongly matches a picture of Canadian Prime Minister
Stephen Harper with a CBS story about a prostitution scandal.


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iMediaEthics has written to Google News asking about this apparent error.  We also contacted Harper’s office asking about this.

Stephen Lecce, deputy director of communications in the Prime Minister’s office, told iMediaEthics by phone that it is, indeed, a photo error.

Lecce noted “These kind of errors happen…but we don’t like errors like this,” and that they “hope the error is fixed quickly.”

While the inaccurate pairing of the Secret Service prostitution headline and Harper’s image isn’t on Google News’ website anymore, don’t worry: We have screenshots to prove it.

This error reminds iMediaEthics of another media fail, where the New York Daily News wrongly matched a picture of soccer star David Beckham with a story about a 58-year-old man who got the bubonic plague last year. See our report on that incident, which the Daily News told us was an error, here.

Harper has been the subject of a couple of fake stories in the past year, as we have written.  In June, a Toronto radio station reported fake news that Harper was in the hospital after choking on a hash brown. The fake news originated from a phony news story posted on the Canadian Conservative Party’s website by a hacker.  See our story on that incident here.

In January of this year, the Toronto Star wrongly reported that Harper would be playing hockey with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  Check out our report on that error here.

UPDATE: 4/15/2012: 9:05 PM EST:  We’ve heard from a Google spokesperson who is looking into this incident before making any comment. We’ll update with any response.

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Whoops! Google News Error Suggests Canadian PM in Secret Service Prostitution Scandal

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