What's the deal with Google's predictive search?

I think we’ve all seen examples of it; type “why do [ethnic group]” or “why are [ethnic group]” into Google, and the predictive search function will display a list of options that are often quite racist. Why?

The things Google suggests are things many people have searched before. So, for instance, apparently many people have searched for “why do Mexicans stare”, so when you start typing “why do Mex…”, Google suggests that that might be what you’re looking for.

In other words, Google suggests a lot of racist options because a lot of people are racist.

Because that’s what most of the millions of previous users were typing!

Google “predicts” by guessing that you MIGHT want to type what the other millions of searchers typed.

Not a racist one, but the most amusing/disturbing one I’ve seen is “how do I get my sister to sleep with me”. :eek::eek::eek:

Yea, its kind of a fun glance into the aggregate psyche of google users. Type “why” and apparently the most frequent “why” question is “why do men have nipples”. You also get the racist “why are black people so loud” the obvious “why is the sky blue” and the poignant “why did I get married too”, the gross “why is my poop green” and the bizarre “why can’t i own a Canadian”.

There’s a satire of anti-gay religious arguments that’s a fake letter to some prominent anti-gay radio personality. It asks about how to reconcile some other laws with parts of the Bible. At one point in quotes a bit from the Bible that authorizes owning slaves from neighbouring counties, and asks why it’s illegal to own a Canadian.

Do you think the well could have been poisoned, so to speak, by bots and organized campaigns to conduct racist searches?

I could be wrong on this, but my assumption is that clicking on recommended options increases the “relevancy” of that recommendation. So if, say, “why are aliens eating my hair while I sleep?” trends up for whatever reason, people clicking on that suggestion because they find it amusing or offensive will keep that result relevant.

I also think (but have no evidence) that a lot of “full sentence” queries into google are intentionally goofy. When you’re really looking for information, I think most people know to search by keywords, not sentences. And I can’t help but think that racist and alarmist thoughts simply tend to get expressed that way. I mean, it seems to me like very few enlightened, racially-sensitive people are going to start a sentence with, “Why do Mexicans…”

Bots, unlikely, because Google probably has the best programmers in the world, better than the folks writing the bots, and they’re pretty good at detecting and ignoring them. Organized campaigns, though, I don’t know: When Google-bombing was all the rage (organized campaigns to, for instance, cause George W. Bush to come up in searches for “miserable failure”), the official Google response was to say that Google reflected the sentiment of the Web, and such campaigns were part of that sentiment.

There was one case, however, of an organized campaign of some neo-nazi group or other to swamp Google with requests so that the top suggestion for the word “Jew” always went to their site. It was so blatant, and I think was the first time that showed Google manipulation was possible, that Google published some sort of explanation letter, and did, in fact, zap the spammer from the top.

I believe this memory is correct, but cannot remember when and who. Look out below, Citer’s Hell, I’m comin’ at ya!

There seems to be no good reason why Google does this. They clearly filter their suggestions, but let actually offensive and ridiculous ones remain. Type in “anal”, no suggestions. Type in “mast” and theres lots of suggestions. add a U, and suddenly nothing. really, google? masturbation is too risque for you, but you’ll allow “why are black people so violent”?

That’s a book, by the way.

Aw, I was gonna mention that one. It’s the third suggest if you type “how do I get” (or just “how do I g”). Unfortunately, the results are flooded more with articles pointing and laughing at the search string than with practical advice on the matter.

Unfortunately? Oh, you are so busted!!

Well, I don’t actually have a sister. But if I did… you know, I’m just going to not say anything.

If you feel you have been stared at by lots of Mexicans (or more by Mexicans than other people), is it actually racist to google the question ‘Why do Mexicans stare?’ ?

The comically weird aspect of this (well, something like it) was played upon in the Macbook Wheel spoof video.

I don’t know how many times I’ve answered this and explained that, in fact, you can own a Canadian - it’s just that we’re very expensive (well, the better ones) and, despite ‘free trade’ there’s still a lot of hassles getting across the border.

Are those really the most often used searches? I have a hard time imagining that with some of the examples I’ve seen.

Just “How” didn’t do the trick; I had to type “How i” before the babby formed.