I came across this article about Google and “…the truth about internet search.” It talks about how Google suggests negative questions as you are typing on the search box. The author narrates how Google suggested the question “are jews evil” when she had typed “are jews” ONLY. She yielded a similar result with “are women” (Google suggested “evil”) and “are muslims” [bad]. When she clicked on the “are jews [evil]” suggestion, she found a list of websites confirming that Jews were indeed evil and/or hateful. For women, the top search result–and a featured one at that–stated that “every woman has some degree of prostitute in her.” Shocked, the author says,
I feel like I’ve fallen down a wormhole, entered some parallel universe where black is white, and good is bad. Though later, I think that perhaps what I’ve actually done is scraped the topsoil off the surface of 2016 and found one of the underground springs that has been quietly nurturing it. It’s been there all the time, of course. Just a few keystrokes away… on our laptops, our tablets, our phones. This isn’t a secret Nazi cell lurking in the shadows. It’s hiding in plain sight.
I tried replicating the experiment to see if my results will be the same and was confused (but relieved) when the “evil” suggestion was nowhere to be found. I typed the entire phrase “are jews evil” in the search box and found a follow up article about how Google altered its search autocomplete to remove the negative suggestions. The article reported that this was not the first time Google has come under fire for churning out racist or otherwise negative suggestions/results to search queries.
While Google has since responded favorably by removing those negative suggestions, my worry now is what about other similar instances? For example, I typed in, “are filipin” and got the following suggestions:
The third suggestion caught my eye. Seeing that it started with “are filipinas,” I typed “a” next and got the following suggestions:
The second and fourth suggested queries made my blood boil. Is this what the internet thought about us women from the Philippines? I clicked on the second and saw various sites about how Filipinas are easy. I didn’t dare click on any of the links in the results list because I didn’t want to add to their traffic.
I’ve always been a staunch advocate of Google, but this whole issue with Google search has shaken me* at first. After I’ve calmed down, though, I realized that Google is not infallible. Yes, it is powerful, but because it is still a machine, it does not mean that it is without errors. It is left to the responsible adults, then, to make sure the kids will be able to discern if what they see in front of them is reliable, correct, and good.
Despite discovering this chink in Google’s formidable armor, I’ve decided that, yes, I will still use Google. Google is racist, real, reliable, and right, but not always.
*I was tempted to say “has me shookt” in the spirit of millennialism (you know, because my students are saying this all the time now, and I’m still technically a millennial), but as my youngest sister would say, “Ew! You’re old!” *sigh*