The top search returns for the phrase 'Black girls' on Google link to sexist and racist websites, including highly explicit pornography, according to US academic Safiya Noble.
From 2010, Noble conducted a series of experiments that revealed that Google searches on Black girls, Latina girls, Asian girls returned pornography, hypersexualized content, and other inappropriate links. Conversely, search returns for 'white girls' were much less controversial.
Noble surmised that search algorithms reflect the racist and sexist biases of their designers, developers, and operators. She also contended that they are reluctant to acknowledge the problem or update their algorithms in a meaningful manner lest it disrupts the advertising revenue generated alongside the search returns, instead preferring to hide behind their opaque 'black box' algorithmic systems.
The findings were also featured in Noble's 2018 book Algorithms of Oppression.
Purpose: Rank search results
Technology: Search engine algorithm; Machine learning
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity, gender
Transparency: Governance; Black box
Noble S (2018). Algorithms of Oppression
Noble S (2013). Google Equates Black Girls With Sex: Why?
Noble S (2012). Missed Connections: What Search Engines Say About Women
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Published: November 2023