5/25/2015

[Warning: This article contains racist terminology.]

There's been a lot of press about racist terms bringing up racist locations in Google Maps, but Google shouldn't be taking the blame. The problem isn't Google. It's racists.

If you haven't heard, here's an overview. First reported by The Washington Post on May 19, it was discovered that if you typed "n*gger king" into Google Maps while on the map of Washington D.C., Google Maps would show the White House.  It quickly followed that other racist terms produced different but equally racist results. For example, type in "n*gger university" in the right place and you get historically black Howard University. The list goes on and on. Google Maps apologized and has made sweeping changes in the algorhythms to try to erase the bug. But the problem is widespread, and it's hard to stop in all areas.

But the big question is, why is this happening? While many speculated that Google Maps had been hacked or that this was somehow caused by Google itself, the truth is far simpler and (in some ways) more disturbing.

While Google has said little about the cause (perhaps to keep some people from exploiting the system or simply to protect their IP), they have made some comments. Jen Fitzpatrick, Google's VP of Engineering and Product Management said, "Certain offensive search terms were triggering unexpected maps results, typically because people had used the offensive term in online discussions of the place. This surfaced inappropriate results that users likely weren't looking for."

In layman's terms? Google searches the web for people talking about certain locations to improve the search results in Google Maps. That's a good thing. You can type "best hamburger" into Google Maps, and find the best hamburger places in your area, based on how many people said "best hamburger" about a local restaurant. But this is the downside. So many people were using the terms "n*gger king" to refer to the White House, that Google Maps turned it into a search term. That's why Google can't stop this without tearing down the whole crowdsourcing system. Once again, the dark underbelly of racism has been exposed.

But that's a good thing. The only way to stop darkness is to expose it to the light.

What do you think? Can Google stop the racist Google Maps? Is Google ultimately to blame? Let us know in the comments.

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5 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Google just shows the results - we are the ones who generate them.

DAVID WALSTON said...

Ignorant people searching with racist intent. Getting the results that they themselves have generated.

Pat Dilloway said...

That's crazy, but on the positive side now I know how to search for the best burgers in my area.

Nigel Mitchell said...

It works!

Nigel Mitchell said...

Good point

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