Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 08:43:11 -0400
From: Meg Henson <[log in to unmask]>
June 30, 1999
Microsoft Charged With Racist Link
Filed at 8:02 a.m. EDT
By The Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A lawsuit accuses Microsoft of including a
``racially-charged'' message linking black people to monkeys in its
Publisher 1998 software. The company has agreed to alter the
John Elijah, 32, filed the suit Tuesday in San Diego federal
court, claiming users will see images that include a black couple
on monkey bars when they type ``monkey'' to access pictures of the
``I felt the blood rushing out of my whole body,'' said Elijah, a
black construction worker who was shown the image by a co-worker.
``I was humiliated.''
Microsoft spokesman Greg Shaw said the company already has
offered a software update to anyone who requests it. He said the
Publisher 2000 software itself does not contain the image.
``We regret any offense or inconvenience,'' Shaw said. ``We are
deeply committed to doing everything possible to prevent this in the
Elijah is demanding that Microsoft pay $75,000 in damages and
alter the software, which is used to create newsletters and documents
with graphics and pictures.
Elijah's attorney, Harvey Levine, is seeking approval of a class
action lawsuit for the estimated 4 million customers who bought the
Levine suspects the picture was specifically programmed to appear
as ``some sort of sick insider joke.''
But Shaw said the link was unintentional. He said the software
contains images that can be accessed by using several key words. A
computer user who searched for ``couple'' may have accessed the photo as
well as someone who typed ``bar.''
In this case, ``monkey'' brings up an assortment of pictures
including monkeys in trees, a gorilla and the closely-cropped photo of
Elijah, who is married and has two children, said his wife was
extremely upset over the incident.
``Her biggest fear is that maybe skinheads or people like that
will face off with me,'' he said. ``She's afraid people will think I'm
doing this for the money, and not because I want it fixed.''