Everyone’s gay according to Google
A look at how “autocomplete” and “autosuggest” functions operate on major internet search engines has discovered there is a propensity for users to search out information on whether celebrities as well as other famous people from the annals of history happen to be gay.
While autocomplete features were brought in a few years ago by tech giants including Google and Microsoft to fasten searches and quickly provide web page results with less inaccuracies by anticipating what a user was looking for, it seems that they are also capturing the public’s wonder about who exactly might be gay, a report in The New York Times revealed late last week.
The US newspaper rattled off a number of popular autocomplete suggestions when typing in a phrase beginning simply with the term ‘is’:
“Is Elton John gay? Is Paul Ryan gay? Is Michael Bloomberg gay? The question pops up often, too, when starting searches about George Clooney, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, actress Ellen Page, Genghis Khan, several cartoon characters and even the Pope,” the Times reported, adding the suggestions appeared with “surprising frequency”.
With search engine experts doubtful of a bug afflicting the multi-billion dollar systems, Nick In’t Ven, a senior program manager at Microsoft’s Bing search engine said the suggested returns only reflected the combined curiosities of its users.
“We base it on experience, what users have asked about around the world,” In’t Ven said. “We’re trying to reflect the world's collective intentions... that is the collective intention, and we abide with it.”
In a statement, a Google spokeswoman, Krisztina Radosavljevic-Szilagyi, said the internet company was simply trying to accurately reflect the diversity of what is on the internet, both good and bad.
“The search queries that you see as part of autocomplete are a reflection of the search activity of all web users,” she said.
Of interest, tech heads have also recently noticed that it isn’t just wonderment about the sexuality of more famous people which fills the days and nights of the average internet user but also a spot of armchair theorising on cultural and national stereotypes.
Begin a search query on Google with the phrase, ‘Why are Australians...’ and autocomplete will suggest options on ‘Why are Australians so tall’ as well as ‘Why are Australians so rude’.
Australians, however, shouldn’t feel too self conscious about their manners or height with their friends in the US stereotyped as being “so stupid” and “so ignorant” according to the same query when the term America is used instead.