Google Images 'three black teenagers' mugshot stereotyping

Occurred: June 2016

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Kabir Alli's discovery that images generated by a search on Google for 'three black teenagers' contrasted sharply with those for a search on the phrase 'three white teenagers', led users and commentators to accuse the technology company of racial stereotyping and bias. 

18-year-old graduate Alli had found that a search on Google Images for three black teenagers returned a series of photos of police mugshots, whereas a search for three white teenagers mostly consisted of smiling young males.

The discovery prompted a wave of complaints on Twitter, to which Alli had posted a video showing his findings, with some people accusing Google of stereotyping, whilst others saw it as racism. A number also suggested it was reflective of views held across a broad spectrum of society.

Operator: Alphabet/Google
Developer: Alphabet/Google

Country: USA

Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts

Purpose: Rank content/search results

Technology: Search engine algorithm; Machine learning
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity

Transparency: Governance; Black box