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Damn, so search engines are racist now????

According to BBC News:

A study of Google searches has found “significant discrimination” in advert results depending on the perceived race of names searched for. Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney said names typically associated with black people were more likely to produce ads related to criminal activity. In her paper, Prof Sweeney suggested that Google searches may expose “racial bias in society”. Google has said it “does not conduct any racial profiling”.

In a statement to the BBC, the company said: “We also have an ‘anti’ and violence policy which states that we will not allow ads that advocate against an organisation, person or group of people.” When placing ads with Google, companies are able to specify which keywords they would like to target.

“It is up to individual advertisers to decide which keywords they want to choose to trigger their ads,” the search giant said. The study analysed the type of advertisements that appeared on Google when certain names were searched for. It looked at’s core search engine, as well as the search function of – which also displays Google’s advertising. Prof Sweeney’s investigation suggests that names linked with black people – as defined by a previous study into racial discrimination in the workplace – were 25% more likely to have results that prompted the searcher to click on a link to search criminal record history.

Technology can do more to thwart discriminatory effects and harmonise with societal norms” She found that names like Leroy, Kareem and Keisha would yield advertisements that read “Arrested?”, with a link to a website which could perform criminal record checks. Searches for names such as Brad, Luke and Katie would not – instead more likely to offer websites that can provide general contact details.

“There is discrimination in the delivery of these ads,” concluded Prof Sweeney, adding that there was a less than 1% chance that the findings could be based on chance. She noted that one possible cause may be Google’s “smart” algorithms – technology which automatically adapts advertising placement based on mass-user habits. She argued that technology should be used to counteract this effect.

“In the broader picture, technology can do more to thwart discriminatory effects and harmonise with societal norms. “Ads responding to name searches appear in a specific information context and technology controls that context.”

SMH. Thoughts on this?



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