Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Is Google predictive search bigoted?

Asharq Al-Awsat mentions:

According to a study conducted by the London-based Arab Media Watch organization, the predictive searches suggested by the Google search engine with regards to the word "Arab" for the most part are a negative depiction of Arabs.

The results of this study which were also reported by the BBC suggested that the Google predictive searches when questions like "Why are Arabs…" and others are asked result in negative or stereotypical options for questions about Arabs. For example, in the case of the question "why are Arabs…" the predictive results include answers like rich, violent, and stupid, and even more insulting variations.

I just tried it, and indeed Google shows things like "rich," "violent," "ugly," "stupid" and "rude."

Perhaps this is because Google Predictive Search was invented in Israel?

Well, not quite. Because for "Why are the Jews" Google shows "so rich," "so powerful," and "so hated." For "Why do Jews..." we get "have big noses," "have glassy eyes" and "run Hollywood."

For better or for worse, Google is showing what people are searching on. To me, keeping it as it is would be far more valuable as it can track bigoted attitudes worldwide. In fact, I'd love to see a breakdown by country for predictive results like these.