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Either Google Autocomplete Is Sexist, Or The Internet Hates Women

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shutterstock_57870226__1382188748_142.196.156.251Mashable had a story yesterday about the disturbing results that Google autocomplete spits out when you begin to type certain words in the Google search bar. I always thought Google autocomplete was an algorithm based on popular searches in your area. Either way – the results are disturbing. Either Google autocomplete is sexist, or the Internet abounds with misogynist jerks. I think I’d prefer the former – but I’m pretty sure both are true.

Here’s how autocomplete works; you begin to type certain phrases, and Google offers suggestions to complete them for you.  Here are some screenshots of my searches from last night:

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 10.39.30 PM

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 10.39.15 PM

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 10.46.57 PM

 

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Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 8.25.50 AM

Well, that’s horrifying.

Here’s how Google describes the function:

Autocomplete predictions are algorithmically determined based on a number of factors (including popularity of search terms) without any human intervention. Just like the web, the search queries presented may include silly or strange or surprising terms and phrases. While we always strive to reflect the diversity of content on the web (some good, some objectionable), we also apply a narrow set of removal policies for pornography, violence, hate speech, and terms that are frequently used to find content that infringes copyrights.

“Feminists should die.” That’s so silly, Google! Oh wait, not it’s not. I’m pretty sure it’s hate speech though. When I typed in “men should…” it autocompleted with men shoulder bag, men should always pray, and men should not get married.

I started searching to see how Google autocomplete responds to other variables:

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 8.53.37 AM

It sucks that it’s 8am and I already hate humanity.

(photo: Stanislaw Tokarski/ Shutterstock)

44 Comments

  1. Tea

    October 19, 2013 at 10:07 am

    It just says what’s most commonly asked or said. Google itself isn’t sexist, and as far as the internet being sexist goes, water is wet. Technically, the internet is sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and racist, too.It’s something I hope will come around some day, because a lot of the bullshit I see is infuriating.

    • Tinyfaeri

      October 19, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Maybe all the cool people stay off the internet because they’re busy spending time with friends and family, and all the bigots, misogynists, racists, transphobes and homophobes don’t have friends because they suck, so they have all this free time to make websites and do google searches for awful things. What we need to do is get these people some hobbies. Like knitting, or tiddlywinks.

    • playbass

      October 20, 2013 at 12:12 am

      Nailed it in one, haha.

      Then again with the following http://www.whosearchesthisstuff.com/why-does-my-mom-turn-me-on/ (Why Does my Mom Turn me On?) it seems you maybe on to something.

    • THRILLHO

      October 20, 2013 at 4:08 am

      Someone needs to start a “Tiddlywinks For Racists” club and make the world a better place.

    • Ty

      October 22, 2013 at 5:29 am

      >transphobes and homophobes don’t have friends because they suck

      That’s silly, I have it on good authority that such folk congregate.

      Also your suffix sucks, shouldn’y imply someone fears merely due to hostility.

  2. My2bits

    October 19, 2013 at 10:15 am

    The internet is racist too. There was a screenshot going around for a while where someone typed, “I was robbed by a white man,” and Google asked “Did you mean, ‘I was robbed by a black man?” When they became aware of that little problem, they fixed it quick.

    I always find it a little entertaining to start typing something and see what pops up. Although, at times, it is a sad insight into the minds of people.

    • My2bits

      October 19, 2013 at 10:18 am

      Oh, and when I type in “women should,” the first thing I get is “women should not preach,” followed by “women shoulder tattoos.” Apparently, there is a lot of shoulder tattooing happening in my neck of the woods.

    • ElleJai

      October 19, 2013 at 10:45 am

      Shoulder, neck… I giggled. I’m not at my best at 2am….

    • Annona

      October 19, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      I think that screenshot was phony, some troll made it. I remember seeing it on Snopes.com. They have a whole category for weird google and microsoft myths, I think.

  3. Toaster

    October 19, 2013 at 11:19 am

    On Google.ca the first suggestions for ‘women should’ was ‘not have rights’ and ‘be property.’ Google, you’re trolling us, right?

    • Marie

      October 19, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      And the third one is ‘women shoulder exercises’. Yay Canada?

  4. Rachel

    October 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    A few years ago, some Jewish groups petitioned Google to alter its results so that the first pages of a search for the word ‘Jew’ wouldn’t turn up Stormfront and other hate sites. Google responded by saying that they regret the results, but wouldn’t alter the algorithm on the principle that it would bring down the intgrity of the search engine. Which can be a fine argument…except that Google definately alters its page results to hide live streaming sites that the entertainment industry hates. Priorities, I suppose.

    • Ty

      October 22, 2013 at 5:34 am

      Must’ve been many years ago, I don’t see them up there now, Wikipedia’s often first these days

  5. Annona

    October 19, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Well, I tried it and got very similar results. Except my “women shouldn’t” was “be cops” and “be in combat” before “preach.” Other interesting variations were “girls shouldn’t be educated” and “girls shouldn’t have abs.” Also, “black people shouldn’t cosplay” apparently. (WTF?) But when I type in “boys should” the top two results were “wear dresses” and “wear bras.” I…have no idea what the hell is going on on the internet. My guess is, there are lots of icky trolls out there, and that they might be more likely to google their absurd opinions in the hopes of finding someone to agree with them.

    • Maria Guido

      October 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      Good point.

    • Ty

      October 22, 2013 at 5:35 am

      trolling isn’t enough to googlebomb those results. It means you’re already searching for stuff like that Annona. Google is giving you what you want, which is apparently non-black boys cosplaying in bras and dresses

  6. Paul White

    October 19, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    gay people should die yahoo? Huh?

    • Simone

      October 20, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      I mean they will anyway, it’s kind of a redundant concept, but nevertheless quite disgusting.

  7. Marie

    October 19, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I tried ‘misogynists should’ and got nothing. Crickets. For shame, internet.

    • Ty

      October 22, 2013 at 5:36 am

      If you’re feeling a void, you can fill it with how google tells me “men should all die”.

  8. Kheldarson

    October 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    The unfortunate thing with the autocomplete function is that it’s basically showing you the nature of the internet: it’s a cruel dark place out there, and anonymity means there’s no need to filter.

    But that’s okay, we have this:

    http://www.amusingtime.com/images/10/funny-kitten-its-dangerous-to-go-alone.jpg

  9. sasareta

    October 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Let’s use some common sense: Google shows result of the most searched topics. It’s not because the “internet hates women!” If you type in “black women are…” the autocomplete pulls up racist and insulting results. The same goes for when you type in “Americans are…” You see insults and not so nice results. Racist, sexist, etc. people are always searching things on the internet, and that’s why these results show up. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp?

  10. SlowCrunch

    October 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Sorry, this is the dumbest thing I’ve read today. Try auto complete for “men aren’t” or “men can’t”. I couldn’t roll my eyes harder. Google just shows what’s on the internet, folks.

    • thebadlydrawnfox

      October 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      Out of curiosity, I did. I got “Men shouldn’t”: “wear white socks”, “hit women” “wear shorts”, “take selfies” or “marry”.

      “Women shouldn’t”: “work”, “vote”, “run”, “wear trousers”, or “have equal rights”.

      Yeah, it sort of came out worse for women there… :-/

      Obviously, this isn’t something we can blame Google for; it’s not like someone is sitting there putting these answers in. But it is weirdly unnerving.

    • Ty

      October 22, 2013 at 5:37 am

      BDF you got different results from SlowCrunch because google gives custom results that reflect a user’s searching habits.

  11. SlowCrunch

    October 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    And, omg, ‘republicans should’ brings up ‘be put to death’.

    ‘Democrats s’ quickly brought up ‘democrats suck’.

    GOOGLE HATES AMERICA!

  12. Kelby Johnson

    October 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I just tried this with ‘women’, ‘men’, ‘gays’ and ‘blacks’ and I was shocked at the results. It’s sad that so many people search these things that they are the most viewed results.

    • Ty

      October 22, 2013 at 5:38 am

      Actually Kelby, a result coming up does NOT mean that they are the most searched, or the most viewed.

      Google returns custom results based on a user’s habits.

    • Kelby Johnson

      October 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      Well that can’t be true. I have never searched for ANY of the results I got. I’ve never searched for anything having to do with men, women, blacks, gays, etc.

  13. Gangle

    October 19, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I got from typing in ‘women are’:
    like cats
    better than men
    sexist
    like (???)
    shallow
    heroes
    awesome
    destroying the joint
    a waste of time
    I thought that wasn’t so bad.. some pretty piggish statements in there, but pretty even I guess. There are a lot of people on the internet, I guess. Then I typed ‘women should’ and got pretty much the same results as Maria. Yeouch!

    • once upon a time

      October 20, 2013 at 1:47 am

      Women are destroying the joint was a quote by an Australian shock jock. In response, a group of Australian women started a feminist organisation called Destroy the Joint. So that one can go either way.

    • Gangle

      October 20, 2013 at 3:12 am

      Yes, I do remember Mr Jones coming out with that and the uproar that came after it, I don’t live under a rock. I was referring more to ‘shallow, waste of time and sexist’.

    • once upon a time

      October 21, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      Actually I assumed you weren’t from Australia, which, of course, I realised afterwards that Destroy the Joint probably wouldn’t come up in a search outside of Australia, but still, thought I was being helpful. Thanks for the snarky response.

  14. Allen

    October 19, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Google isn’t to blame for the searches or content that leads to autocomplete suggestions like these in the first place. However, Google won’t always show autocomplete suggestions if they’re deemed unacceptable. They even acknowledge in the quote here that they have a removal policy that includes stuff like hate speech. So the real issue here is how Google judges what counts as hate speech, and why some of these examples apparently don’t count. “Feminists should be killed” seems pretty inflammatory and hateful.

  15. Chrissy

    October 19, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say the “women shouldn’t preach” one is being searched for to find the Bible verse that says that to use in arguments on Facebook. The rest makes me hate the world, though, but I’m pretty sure that’s just because people are awful, not because Google’s algorithm works.

    • Renee J

      October 20, 2013 at 6:36 am

      Or people are just curious of other people’s views.

  16. Chrissy

    October 19, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Also, when I looked up “men shouldn’t” the fifth option was “men shouldn’t hit women,” so I guess that’s something?

  17. playbass

    October 20, 2013 at 12:07 am

    Okay, guys. You lot are going to have a field day with the site http://whosearchesthisstuff.com/ .

    There’s some serious crazy and WTF searches that Google suggests.

  18. Renee J

    October 20, 2013 at 6:34 am

    I once searched ‘women shouldn’t go to college’. I had read an article about a man who blogged about that and was so surprised, I searched to see if it was a common opinion. I think part of the reason these autocorrects are so popular is that people are searching the web to see if people really think it.

  19. Simone

    October 20, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    I often write considered and critical responses to the articles on this site.

    However here all I can say and think is,
    That is Fucked.

  20. SickOfTheIrony

    October 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Real sexism is when women can find something within random algorithms and turn it into another way to hate men.

  21. Ty

    October 22, 2013 at 5:28 am

    Why did you include “feminists should” in your results? That’s not sexist. Feminists can be either male or female.

    Well unless you believe the results of “men cannot” since we apparently can’t be feminists.

    Google results are customized to user browsing habits, so the results you got only reflect those topics this Mommyish writer is already reading about, and not the population at large.

  22. Flannigan

    December 12, 2013 at 3:44 am

    Ah, I’m sorry, but if I want to search for idiots saying ‘Women shouldn’t vote’, or ‘transgender people aren’t human’, that’s what I’m going to type in a search. Be careful about using records of tools used to assume a mentality. I don’t think this indicates anything either way.

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