Google Image Search for “professional hair styles” vs. “unprofessional hair styles” reveals blatant racial bias

I tried this myself and got pretty much the same line-up. All but one of the women in the “unprofessional hairstyles” row were black. All the women in the “professional hairstyles” row are white.

I don’t blame Google. Google is reflecting the consensus of what websites say are professional vs. unprofessional hairstyles. That’s how Google works.

Professional and unprofessional hairstyles are as different as black and white [Rob Beschizza – Boing Boing]

2 thoughts on “Google Image Search for “professional hair styles” vs. “unprofessional hair styles” reveals blatant racial bias

  1. Ginsu Yoon

    Nope, Google should not be excused with the explanation “Search engines in turn reflect what’s on the web.” That would be a good explanation only if the sites with images of black women were calling out those hairstyles as unprofessional. In fact, if you look at the sites with those images, they are complaining that workplaces *incorrectly* don’t regard those hairstyles as professional. Google has failed to understand the correct semantics of the web content, which is the very thing that Google takes pride at being the best at! So this is very much a failure in Google’s implementation, and I expect they will recognize and correct this. (Disclaimer: I no longer work at Google and have no particular knowledge of this controversy. I just have faith that my former colleagues will do the right thing here.)

    1. Mitch Wagner

      Good points! I wrote carelessly. Even if the search results were an actual representation of the website assertions, it wouldn’t excuse Google.

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