It’s becoming more serious, and a much bigger problem. More importantly, it is slowly shaping narratives and that is dangerous. The most recent example of this is research which has revealed that Google’s search algorithm allegedly, and consistently, discriminates against women and black people
. In this specific example, when you search for “woman
” or “girl
” on Google, the results will have you needing to possibly pick up your jaw from the flaw. As if that is not enough, and to prove the opposite of this, search for “unprofessional hair
Now, imagine, like me, your children using Google to do their research and homework. What narrative are they being sold? What picture of the world they live in is being painted?
Google has argued, many a times, and I understand their argument, that their algorithm merely reflects society. However, it goes deeper than that. As Jonathan Cohn puts it
To make matters worse, Google suggests that I narrow down my search results with adjectives ranging from “attractive” to “skinny” to “pregnant.” In contrast, when searching for “men” (a category that also over represents whiteness), the first three adjectives are “cartoon,” “hair style” and “old.” These adjectives may be descriptive, but they also replicate the stereotype that women are primarily valued for their beauty and reproductive organs and men are important for their personality and wisdom.
There’s a flip side to this, and this where I partially agree with Google and something we need to also talk about. According to Google, their Image Search “analyzes the text on the page adjacent to the image, the image caption and dozens of other factors to determine the image content,” and that’s where we, Africans, have to play our part.
We need to write. We need to podcast. We need to vlog. We need to tell our stories on the Internet, specifically on our own platforms (not behind the walled gardens of social media platforms), our own websites, that are out on the open web. That no Jack, Mark or Larry can censor or suspend you from.
We must tell these stories ourselves, so that, when technology such as Artificial Intelligence reaches critical mass, it can find our data, our content, as told by us.
You could dismiss my argument as frivolous. Perhaps it is. I’d love to hear from you on how you see this.