Potato is an algae

2022-11-27 (Updated 2022-11-28)

Note: this was fixed 2022-11-28

As my friends and I were on some extremely offtopic discussion in a voice call (in a very usual fashion), we questioned what the "correct" French translation for "potato" was. (It's "pomme de terre", by the way)

Comparing Google Translate's result to DuckDuckGo's result, something pretty odd stood out to me in Google's... "Knowledge Panel" for potatoes.

Google's infobox for "Potato"—listed as an algae


Wikipedia page for potato, but the Find box says "Phrase not found" for the word "algae"

The Wikipedia page for potato doesn't even mention the word algae, so I have zero idea where Google is getting it's information from. Probably a one-off, right?

Google's infobox for "Pear"—also listed as an algae

Nope! I always enjoy when supposedly "perfect" things break in this fashion and I was a little curious to see how far it would go. Just for fun, I followed the tree of higher classifications until I found the broadest category of Google-classified "algae". To save you some time (and page space), here's a nifty graphic:

Chart of higher classifications grouped by if algae or not

While I have absolutely zero experience with biology and its classifications—it seems that the misclassification starts with Archaeplastida, which (roughly) is where algae and land plants are separated from each other (according to Wikipedia).

Additionally, my friend Matt discovered that this only occurs when the result is in English or is translated from English.

It's a little fascinating to look into the inner workings of Google's controversial knowledge panel. It's also a little scary knowing how easily it gives incorrect information without attributing to any source.