Google Image Search Sparks Controversy After It Reveals Potential Racial Bias

Google is facing a racial controversy over its image search. Critics have accused Google of being involved in racial bias in its search results. The controversy stems from searches on the terms “three white teenagers” and “three black teenagers.”

USA Today reported that the controversy stemmed from a search of Google for the terms “three white teenagers” and “three black teenagers,” and it raised troubling questions about how racial bias is influencing content online.

The controversy first began when a video clip was posted by Kabir Alli, an 18-year-old graduating senior from Clover Hill High School in Midlothian, Virginia. The clip shows an array of mugshot images when users search for the term “three black teenagers.”

Alli did the search after he heard about it from one of his friends.

“I had actually heard about this search from one of my friends and just wanted to see everything for myself. I didn’t think it would actually be true. When I saw the results I was nothing short of shocked.”

Since the video clip was posted, it has been retweeted 65,000 times, and Twitter users are using the hashtag #threeblackteenagers on Twitter to discuss the issue.

Alli said that the same search of “three white teenagers” turned up Brock Turner, the Standford Rapist, in his high school graduation picture instead of his police mugshot.

“I understand it’s all just an algorithm based on most visited pages but Google should be able to have more control over something like that.”

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Google was recently involved in another controversy called “Google Dorking.” Google Dorking is a form of hacking. Compaas Labs uncovered what Google was doing when they revealed that thousands of files related to sensitive patient information were available publicly in places like Google Drive. Employees in the medical community often use Google Drive or Dropbox to exchange files because it’s faster than following institutional protocols. It has left patient information vulnerable to exploitation.

The Star reported that Google released a statement regarding the controversy and said that the search merely reflects social bias, not the company’s values.

“This means that sometimes unpleasant portrayals of sensitive subject matter online can affect what image search results appear for a given query. These results don’t reflect Google’s own opinions or beliefs — as a company, we strongly value a diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures.”

Although some have complained that the system is racist, Alli said that he didn’t blame Google, he blamed the system. He believed that Google should have more control over the system since the search he did on “three white teenagers” returned results of largely preppy-looking, khaki-wearing white teenagers.

BBC News reported that the search has caused a major row on social media, particularly Twitter. This isn’t the first time that Google has been accused of being racist, though. Designer Johanna Burai said that she noticed that when she did searches for parts of the body they largely returned photos where the skin was white. She wrote on her website that the more images were shared, the higher they ranked in the search engines.

Google said that the search results didn’t reflect the values of the company. Some Twitter users defended Google, and one even said that computers couldn’t be racist while another said that blacks needed to work on their online presentation and presence.

[Image via Google]

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