Research on discriminatory Google advertisements has recently come out of Harvard where a professor has discovered that the popular search engine allegedly links names associated with black people with ads related to criminality. In fact, Latanya Sweeney found that these adverts were 25 per cent more likely to appear alongside a search that included a black name. Services offering background checks for arrests and criminal records were two types of ads cited as appearing during these searches. Caucasian names brought up typical types of advertisements not related to criminality, even though some of the Caucasian names used by Sweeney in her research trial did have criminal records associated with them. In an article in The Daily Mail, a Google spokesperson responded that the company was not to blame as, “It is up to individual advertisers to decide which keywords they want to choose to trigger their ads.”
The Ontarion: Have you heard about this and does it interest you?
Sebastian Szilagyi, student: I haven’t heard about it. I guess it does interest me in a sense. We’re moving toward a much more equal world so to have these sorts of discriminatory things popping up – it’s not a good thing. So I think that it does interest me because I’d like to see those [things] not happening. You know, granted, there will be people of many races who just aren’t up to society’s level of standards, but you’re going to find that in any race – I’d read into it more.
The Ontarion: Do you have any experiences with similar ads that have stereotyped or reflected your supposed interests in a particular way?
SS: Well, I’ve seen certain things like that pop up, mostly on Facebook, not necessarily Google. Based on my likes, I’ve noticed certain things kind of popping up on the side. I don’t use them… At first, I was kind of thrown off by them, like this is stuff I’ve looked into or interested in. [I was] scrolling through Facebook and there was like this Big Lebowski advertisement on the side, which sort of catches you off guard. I’ve had some experiences based on that, yeah.
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