In the world of Google where a simple search of “beautiful women” will result in 99% white women, it seems we can find images of black and brown women: in search of “unprofessional hair".
Rosalia, an MBA student and aspiring entrepreneur, brought this to the world’s attention via the following tweet, now gone viral.
“I saw a tweet saying ‘Google unprofessional hairstyles for work,’" she tweeted. “I did. Then I checked the professional ones,” ending with sarcastic smiley faces. Here's what she found:
But these aren’t necessarily hand-picked photos from the team at Google (no matter how much we’d like to scream at them about this). The true reveal here isn’t that revealing after all-- Google photos are based upon popularity, created by the people. Which means, as The Guardian explains, "the things engines and their algorithms are able to know and to find are influenced by the content we give them to work with, which means they may reflect our own biases." So, even though the world is populated by far more non-white people, Google image searches for “men,” “women,” and “beauty” result in unilaterally white standards of beauty. That is a reflection of our society. Or at the very least, of our published world online.
You can see, from the opposite entry "professional hair," that this is indeed an issue.
Some will ask and argue if this is a bias in selection, or if it's just proof of our bias in society? And what can Google do about this without affecting their algorithmic system that, primarily in non-related race issues, continues to work effectively?
I believe there should be something done about this, especially given its origin. Google created this image searching tool in 2000, in response to one of the strongest demands in their history— a now famous green dress on Hollywood's popular red carpet, worn by a Latina nonetheless, Jennifer Lopez.
If women of color are innovative and groundbreaking enough to inspire one of the most monumental technological advances in history, then maybe the algorithm that controls the images on these searches isn't as all-encompassing as it seems. If diversity is really what Google strives for as they say, then overriding technology for equality shouldn't be that big of a deal.