Late last week a digg post got a lot of attention with users claiming the search giant Google was sexist. The post relates to the search results of the phrase “she invented” with Google suggesting a ‘sexist’ alternative.
While browsing digg last week a story caught my eye that claimed Google discriminated against women when certain search phrases were entered. The story highlights the search “she invented” which Google returns the suggestion of “Did you mean: he invents”.
On further investigation by the Chicago Tribune, it turns out Google makes similar suggestions for the terms “she owns“, “she intelligent” and “she responsible.” Oddly enough if you Google the alternative of these terms, for example “he invents”, Google does not suggest “she invents” as a search result.
In an effort to seek clarity on the matter, a writer from the Chicago Tribune contacted Google to get the final word on the issue. Here is their reply:
“Google develops its own spell-checking algorithms based on sophisticated machine learning methods, using cues from aggregated user input, Web documents, and many other sources.”
“The algorithm provides a ‘best-guess’ alternative suggestion that we think might improve the search results, and is completely generated without human input. It can be thought of as a suggestion offer, rather than a definitive answer.”
So it seems the Google suggestions are completely automated, dispelling any wrongdoing or sexist claims on behalf of Google. Rather, these search suggestions should be seen as a reflection on our search trends and history.
P.S. Search suggestions aren’t all one sided, after all a search for “she stupid” does return a suggestion for “he stupid”