Name Searches on Google May Show Racism

March 6, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. biased 
[BAHY-uhst] (adj.) – favoring one person or group over other group
Example: The website seemed racially biased toward Asians and seemed to be against Americans.

2. display [dih-SPLEY(v.) – to place something where it can be seen by others
Example: They displayed advertisements at the top of their webpage.

3. conclusion [kuhn-KLOO-zhuhn(n.) – a final statement after important information has been said or studied
Example: The conclusion to the crime’s mystery is not yet known because of missing evidence.

4. algorithm [AL-guh-rith-uhm(n.) – a set of mathematical steps done by computer programs to get a result
Example: The website uses an algorithm to count the number of visitors on the website.

5. keyword [KEE-wurd(n.) – an important word to use when searching  information
Example: He used the keywords “fix my computer” to find information on how he can repair his broken laptop.

Read the text below.

A recent study showed that name searches on Google seem to be racially biased, as revealed by advertisements displayed during Google searches.

Latanya Sweeney, a professor from Harvard University, observed name searches in Google and found that results for names that are more common among black people produce advertisements related to criminal activity.

Sweeney searched names such as “Leroy,” “Kareem” and “Keisha,” and search results showed advertisements that lead to websites where people can check criminal records. According to Sweeney, there is a 25% chance that names related to black people will lead to advertisements about crime.

On the other hand, names such as Brad, Luke and Katie, shows advertisements that provide general contact details.

Sweeney still does not have conclusions on the reason for the results, since more information about Google AdSense is needed.

But Sweeney thinks the results are due to Google’s algorithms, which adapt to the habits of users. This means that advertisement links that are clicked more often during a search are also likely to be displayed more frequently.

Meanwhile, Google said that it is not biased against any race. The company said it lets advertisers choose keywords that would make their advertisements appear.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Should Google do something about the issue? Why or why not?
·         Do you think the person who did the study is reacting too much? What makes you say so?

Discussion B

·         Why do some people still think negatively about those from another culture or country?
·         What do you think people can do to prevent racism?


March 6, 2013