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Sexism: The Fault Is In Ourselves, Not Google’s Autocomplete

by | 23rd, October 2013

THIS is a rather fun finding, the UN has actually managed to do something both useful and interesting. There’s a piece in the Guardian about it here and the main page of the project is here.

What they’ve done is go to Google, typed in part of a query and seen how Google autocomplete finishes it off:

A series of ads, developed as a creative idea for UN Women by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, uses genuine Google searches to reveal the widespread prevalence of sexism and discrimination against women. Based on searches dated 9 March, 2013 the ads expose negative sentiments ranging from stereotyping as well as outright denial of women’s rights.

“When we came across these searches, we were shocked by how negative they were and decided we had to do something with them,” says Christopher Hunt, Art Director of the creative team. The idea developed places the text of the Google searches over the mouths of women portraits, as if to silence their voices.

“The ads are shocking because they show just how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality. They are a wake up call, and we hope that the message will travel far,” adds Kareem Shuhaibar, copy writer.

The thing is this definitely isn’t Google showing these attitudes towards women. For autocomplete is entirely algorithm based. It doesn’t say that people ought to think this or search for that. Rather, it records what people have searched for. Thus the suggestions that come up and the ones that other people have already used. So, what we’re seeing is not some artifact of a global company’s thoughts, or capitalism, or anything like that. It’s a mirror to the assembled opinions of us all.

What we’re going to do about it all is another matter: the UN seems to think we should all do more UN type things to fight sexism. But I’m afraid I remain unconvinced: for if this is the way that we really do all think about women, feminism and equality then it’s going to take rather more than a few talking shop episodes to deal with it.



Posted: 23rd, October 2013 | In: Money, Technology Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink