Monday, May 14, 2007

Sexism


Is Google's search engine sexist?

No, says the Internet giant -- despite some awfully quirky evidence pointing to the contrary -- we're just, well ... it's complicated.

Google appears to discriminate against women when you use it to search for certain phrases and word combinations. For example if you Google the phrase "she invents," the Web site spits out the suggestion: "Did you mean: he invents." The same thing happens with many other two-word pairings such as "she owns," "she intelligent" and "she responsible." Conversely you don't receive the suggestion "Did you mean: she invents" when you search for the phrase "he invents." But the best was that if you Google "she" with many words stereotypically associated with women -- such as "cooks," "cleans," or "mops" -- the search engine does not offer up: "Did you mean: he cooks" or "he cleans" or "he mops." Oddly enough, Google did seem to treat females and males differently when it came to many two-word combinations beginning with either "she" or "he." Including even "she Google."

In a friendly response, a representative said Google was aware of the issue and offered up a not-so-simple explanation for it: "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 spokesperson replied via e-mail. "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."

Oh, and Google's "sexist" quirk? It doesn't work against women in every case.
For instance, if you search for the word combo "
she stupid," it does spit out the reply "Did you mean: he stupid." You also get "Britney Spears" as your first search result. And "Paris Hilton" as your second. So, really, you can't be too hard on Google. After all, it's obviously dead-on with some things.

15 comments:

jungle jane said...

yeah i had a few google issues today....

Ratty. said...

Google is getting too big and powerful. It will soon be telling us what it thinks we ought to know.

Yoda said...

What the rep. from Google said is true -- they only scourge the documents on the Internet and suggest 'common' usage of terms/spelling.

I've been to Google, both NYC office and their Google headquarters in Mountain View, even seen Larry Page (founder) in their cafeteria. There was nothing sexist going on. There was no sex going on either ;-)

Google is getting powerful, but its still way less influential than M$ which essentially traps users into their endless product updates. Google is free for use. If everyone chose not to use Google, it would lose its power in a heartbeat.

So, we should just relax and enjoy the ride :-)

Jenny! said...

Yoda:
It's good to have my resident dork commenting to clear things up! He he he!!! I personally love Google (and dorks) and use it all the time. I think people get too worked up about shit that doesn't matter in the big picture...worry about starving kids, not what Google suggests!

mutleythedog said...

I only find pictures of naked women... very odd as I distinctly requested men. Oh and I worry about starving children -yes really!!

Jenny! said...

Mutley:
What a philanthropist you are! You should contact Google about your problem!

minijonb said...

i just like the picture... thanks!

=;-)

zen wizard said...

Well, I hate to play the Devil's advocate, but no woman ever invented anything.

And don't say "Madame Curie," 'cause that was bullshit.

So Google's saying if you are looking for inventors, that most likely you misspelled something. (Speaking of Google, it's the Google Guys--not "The Two C*nts Who Wrote a Search Algorythm and Leveraged It Into a Billion-Dollar IPO.")

Like, I would say, if you typed, "She spooges" you most likely typed in an extra "S."

I mean that is the cold hard fact.

If you want to prove me wrong and invent something, be my guest.

But who is the greatest inventor of all time? It's not Rhonda Popeil, it's Ron Popeil. Unless he goes out in drag sometimes. But who "invented" going out in drag?? It was an inventive guy who wanted to pick up guys, I would wager...

I mean, if you told a woman you would want a fishing pole that fits in your pocket, she would probably not answer the phone when she saw your number on the caller ID the next time.

So Ron Popiel picked up the gauntlet, and now we have the Pocket Fisherman®.

That is the spirit that made America--or at the very least, Macau, where they made it cheaper than Americans would--great.

Dan said...

I think that should be the new logo for Google. Oh yeah!

The Man at the Pub said...

Google is a computer. It's smart, but not smart enough to learn the "fine art" of sexism.

Fever Dog said...

Call me naive, but I do accept their algorithim defence. But maybe because I'm not the one being discriminated against...

Malnurtured Snay said...

All I know is that when I google "Blonde in natural environment" I get porn. ;)

Jenny! said...

minijonb:
You're welcome...I found it entertaining!

Zen:
I actually agree with you, I was merely posting as a "talk" topic!

Dan:
If they used that as their new logo, I am pretty sure there would be some feminist rally at Google Hq. because it negatively portrays woman as sex objects...what's wrong with that???

Pub Man:
Could you teach Google a few things?!?

Fever Dog:
I don't have a problem with it, who the fuck has time to sit around Googling different phrases to see if it's sexist anyway???

Snay:
That's a good one, I am sure everyone who comments here will check it out!

zen wizard said...

Well, you got me talking all right.

I just feel really strongly about Ron Popeil's contribution to humanity and late-night 60's television viewing.

I am not sure we could have had "Creature Feature" or professional wrestling without his sponsorship.

Don said...

Don't forget about popiel's greatest selling invention of all time... Hair in a Can, aka spray on hair! Hmm... if it's such a good seller, it must be great! Based on that, maybe I should give it a try since it has to work so well!