Is Google getting less racist? Or less controversial?

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In Safiya Umoja Noble’s essay, “Google Search: Hyper-visibility as a Means of Rendering Black Women and Girls Invisible”, it was shocking to see the racist and misogynistic links appear when one searched “Black girls” in 2011. What was more surprising is how vastly different Google searches work within the span of just six years.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Fig. 1 above shows the searched links included in Noble’s essay, while Fig. 2 shows the searched links today in 2017. An immediate difference is that there actually no pornographic links or sites that display black women as a fetish. In fact, there are no major links within the first several pages of the Google search. Instead, we get a much more prominent focus on cultural identity, social issues, and celebration of identity. However, a quick search for “Hispanic girls” and “Asian girls” did not yield the same results. Within the first page… and second… and third, there were various links to pornographic or semi-pornographic sites that collectively objectifies the women. Whether it be inherently lewd (Found on first page) or under the guise of appreciation, Google has very obviously not become non-racist or non-sexist.

In comparison to searches for black women, there is a distinct lack of sensitivity towards other minorities (I conducted the same searches for “Middle Eastern girls” and ethnicities such as “Japanese girls” which yielded the same results). This raises the question: Has Google and algorithms in general on the internet gotten less racist over time? Or simply less controversial? In the context of growing racial tensions and the vocal Black Lives Matter movement, it appears that many sites are taking a step back on more hotly debated issues in order to protect their image instead of directly addressing them. The so-called “model minority asians” are still being underrepresented in all the right categories and overrepresented in all the wrong ones. Hispanic people still face discrimination and racism under the Trump administration, yet the internet continues to sexualize hispanic women. It is obvious that the internet, or rather the users behind it, are trying to stop appearing racist, rather than actually stop being racist.


Posted from our fascination by Tony N.