Google Search is notorious for its hilarious autocomplete suggestions.
We can probably get a good laugh at how a “can a human” search completes with “get a dog pregnant” but it becomes bleak when Sri Lankans are suggested to be “ugly” or Ugandans “lazy” and just downright offensive when Israelis are suggested to be “not real jews” or that Iranians “are not muslims”.
These descriptions don’t only attack their national identities but also their faith. Social media users who are part of and sympathize with these groups have expressed their anger in social media.
We can get a pretty good idea about how racist and sexist the world is as the predictions rely on users’ search activity and interests worldwide. The problem is that it becomes a cycle when those suggestions stay in autocomplete because they perpetuate the prejudicial stereotypes by exposing them to other users. The predictions have also become viral as memes, and has made online spaces unsafe for cultural minorities and users that don’t live in the West.
Google has since removed some blatantly offensive search predictions so we don’t see any misogynistic suggestions when we type “are women”. In fact, that particular query completes with “equal with men,” a progressive suggestion. But Google can’t police every search query and predict all their users’ search activities.
Today, Google is testing a new feature in their search engine, allowing users to report offensive query through a clickable link right below the predictions in Google search.
While Google did provide a way for users to report offensive search suggestions prior to this, it was only through the form hidden somewhere in Google’s support pages. Not all users are aware that the form exists which made it inaccessible to them. With a Report Offensive Query button, it’s easier for users to file a complaint and easier for Google to regulate offensive content. This is expected to help efforts in making the internet tolerant of diversity and safe for all its users worldwide.
Technology companies like Google have been known to be proactive in battling discrimination online through constantly improving their algorithms. The feedback tool, however, is only available to a small group of users in its current phase, but the internet giant hopes to make it global soon.
Kayte M. is the Senior Social Media Manager for Philippine Outsourcer. During her spare time, she engages in intellectual debates.