John M. Becker

Google Has a Gay Problem

Filed By John M. Becker | May 28, 2013 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: anti-gay bigotry, Google, pejoratives, That's so gay

gayest_game_ever.pngGoogle is one of the most powerful companies on the planet, a hotbed of technological innovation, and the place where most of us turn for instant access to the widest possible cross-section of human knowledge.

It's also a company that goes out of its way to support LGBT rights: it partners with many global LGBT organizations, opposes California's Proposition 8, and earned a perfect score on HRC's 2013 Corporate Equality Index.

Yet according to several recent reports, Google has a gay problem: its search algorithm treats the word "gay" as a synonym for "bad."

Don't believe me? Go ahead, try it: go to Google right now and type in "gayest game ever." Three of the first eight results are lists of the "worst games of all time." The word "worst" appears in bold on five headings, indicating that the search engine equates "gay" with "worst." Google even links to a Wikipedia page titled "List of video games notable for negative reception."

And it's not just for games -- similar results happen with books, fashion trends, sports, haircuts, celebrity clothing lines, and even cookies.

Sadly, despite scientific evidence that the phrase "that's so gay" may cause long-term harm, Google's gay problem isn't likely to go away anytime soon. A company spokesperson provided BuzzFeed with the following statement:

Google's results, including when a search term is synonymized with another, are a reflection of content on the web and how people search. These results are determined by algorithms and we don't manually correct this process, but we are always looking at how we can improve our algorithms.

A petition asking Google to stop condoning the use of "gay" as a pejorative term in its search results has gathered over 600 signatures as of this writing.

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