What happens when you Google 'three black teenagers' and why it's a problem

Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty
Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty

Do you remember when MBA student Rosalia Google image-searched “unprofessional hairstyles for work” and the vast majority of the image results were of black women with natural hair?

Well, it appears Google has got itself into a bit of hot water again because of their search results.

Twitter user @iBeKabir uploaded the following video on the site on Monday and it's since received thousands of retweets and comments:

In the video, he Google searched “three black teenagers.” The majority of resulting images were of mugshots of police mugshots.

A Google search of “three white teenagers” however, yielded stock images of smiling Caucasian teenagers.

People on Twitter were shocked:

One person pointed out that most of the "white" images were stock...

indy100 did its own search, with mixed results:

Three Black Teenagers

Three White Teenagers

The Yahoo image search had similar results:

Three Black Teenagers

Three White Teenagers

So is Google racist?

Well, no.

The way Google algrithms work is by “crawling” the web, and sorting web pages into an index.

When someone searches for something on Google, the algorithm dips into this index and produces ranked results, depending on over 200 factors, including user context and “freshness” which is:

The latest news and information…[and] provides relevant results based on geographic region, web history and other factors.

A report by the Ministry of Justice in 2013 revealed that judges and magistrates are institutionally racist, handing down more lenient sentences to white criminals.

This arguably has a trickle-down affect on the media, creating a bias towards crime, which the Google algorithm then uses to make up its index. al The search results indicate a societal problem about the perceptions of race.

When contacted by indy100, Google said it does not comment on individual cases.

Keep reading...Show less
Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)