Can We Trust Google?
On average, about 65 percent of adults are happy with the search results they are getting when they Google their inquiries. But what about that other 35 percent? What’s going on here… shouldn’t Google be giving the public what they are looking for?
The Neutrality of Google results is the issue at stake, as many people are finding the results of what they search to be both disturbing and degrading. In Missed Connections: What Search Engines Say About Women, Saifya Noble discusses how several search results for women, especially that of black or other minority women, lead directly to pornography or other sexualized depictions of women.
The same is sadly true when it comes to race. For example, there is great controversy over the differences that arise from searching “Three black teenagers” versus “Three white teenagers.” (“Three Black Teenagers”) I went ahead and conducted the search myself to test the truth of these claims. When I searched “Three white teenagers,” images of white males and females, smiling and holding different sports objects appeared on the screen. When I then switched the key word white to black, the images shifted drastically. Almost every image depicted a mug shot, or some sort of criminalizing image against the black person.
It never occurred to me, or probably not to the vast majority of avid Google searchers that the results were not entirely balanced and neutral. I always assumed that my searches warranted either the most popular or the most reliable, valuable information on the subject I wondered about. Yet, the reality is that several stereotypes fester behind the powerful engine that feeds us what we want to see, day in and day out. Scary, isn’t it?
I’ll respond to my own rhetorical question with an alarming yes. It is frightening to think that an informational machine that we all depend so heavily on is giving us information that either A. it predetermined we want to see or B. is marked by inaccurate biases of information from the general public. I could search “women” and literally encounter a nude sexual image of a pornography actress. These Google results make more of a difference than anyone realizes. In this day in age, people don’t have the patience to click to page 2 of Google results; myself included. If I want to know something, my inner Google researcher tells me that the information on page 1 must be enough to work with.
While Google acknowledges the potential dangers caused by assumptions from the media and journalism, they have taken a more dormant role in fixing these issues. In June of 2016, Google released a statement on the matter stating, “”We welcome feedback and we’re always working to improve our search results. As a company we strongly value a diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures — these search results do not reflect Google’s view on the matter.”” In essence, Google blames society for the popularly stereotypical and biased results that emerge from its engine. While this may frustrate some, it does open our eyes to some of the horrors of society. Yikes…