Safiya Noble (MS ’09, PhD ’12), GSLIS alumna, affiliated faculty member, and assistant professor of African-American Studies at Illinois, has published an op-ed, "Google equates black girls with sex; why?" on the popular website The Root. Noble's work on how race and gender are reflected in search was the basis of her dissertation.
The full article is available on The Root. Here is an excerpt:
What is worrisome about the commercial-search business model is that companies have a vested interest in our clicking on websites and ads that make them the most money. This model has little relationship to the best way for us to find knowledge or information that we can trust. It drives home the reason we cannot substitute search engines for great schools, competent teachers and well-funded libraries. It raises questions about how companies, not communities, control what is found in a search engine. For marginalized groups that need continued advocacy for social, economic or political justice, co-optation of identity by these processes is problematic.
Racial bias is real on the Internet, and the search engines we use reflect that. The research raises the question, if Google can't do anything about this kind of sexism and racism, then what search engine can?
Innovation is possible. Google is the example to which we turn as the hallmark of innovation. In fact, Google just released a new report about how search works, making this process more transparent than ever before.
Let's bring the leading minds to the table and explore the opportunities, rather than perpetuate old traditions in new media.
The Root is the leading online source of news and commentary from an African-American perspective. Founded in 2008 under the leadership of Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University, The Root offers a unique take on breaking news, provides solid analysis and presents dynamic multimedia content. The Root raises the profile of black voices in mainstream media and engages anyone interested in black culture around the world. The Root is owned by the Washington Post Company.