Google has taken action to alter some autocomplete suggestions in its search engine after it was alerted to anti-Semitic, sexist and racists entries by UK newspaper, The Observer.
The autocomplete suggestion that was the focus in this case was “Are Jews….” The Google algorithm’s first result was, up until a few days ago, “…. evil.”
The Observer article also pointed out several other poorly constructed algorithm results such as returning “evil” for the question “Are women…” and for “Are Muslims” suggesting “bad.”
A Google spokesperson said that the company had taken “action within hours of being notified on Friday of the autocomplete results.” Google did not however comment on its decision to only change some of the results and not all those that were raised in the article. On Monday, the “Are Muslims bad” autocomplete suggestion was still being returned.
The issue is cause by Google’s predictive “autocomplete” search feature that is designed to reflect the “range of info on the web” and is generated by “what other people are searching for, including Trending stories.”
The algorithm attempts to predict search queries as they are being typed actively directing users to fake content on the web, even when they’re not looking for it.
One of the main side effects of the search algorithm design occurs when false content outweighs factual content in popularity across the web. The algorithm can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction and can generate results that direct web users toward false news and information.
Current US President Obama railed against this issue recently for the effect both Google and Facebook false and inaccurate news stories had on the results of the recent election in the States.
A Google spokesperson said:
“Autocomplete predictions are algorithmically generated based on users’ search activity and interests. Users search for such a wide range of material on the web — 15% of searches we see every day are new. Because of this, terms that appear in Autocomplete may be unexpected or unpleasant. We do our best to prevent offensive terms, like porn and hate speech, from appearing, but we acknowledge that autocomplete isn’t an exact science and we’re always working to improve our algorithms.”
There’s no autocomplete to worry about here on FileHippo – just the latest software titles ready to download now!