Are Google Search Results Racist?

A new Harvard University study suggests that "arrests" ads are likely to show up when searching "Black" names on Google.

In this day and age it is common for employers, landlords and universities to Google people to find more information about a person’s past.

But there are more advertisements in search results suggesting criminal activity for names commonly associated with Black people than for white people, according to a Harvard University study called “Discrimination in Online Ad Delivery.”

Names such as Deshawn or Ebony are what the study calls “Black identifying names” and are more likely than names like Dustin and Jill to come up in search engine ads for "arrests," even if the person has a clean record. These search results can skew African-Americans' online identities, furthering discrimination against them.

The BBC News reports:

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.

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.

Read the full story here.


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(Photo: Courtesy of Google)

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