Google Searches Expose Racial Bias, Says Study of Names

BBC News, February 4, 2013

A study of Google searches has found “significant discrimination” in advert results depending on the perceived race of names searched for.

Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney said names typically associated with black people were more likely to produce ads related to criminal activity.

In her paper, Prof Sweeney suggested that Google searches may expose “racial bias in society”.

Google has said it “does not conduct any racial profiling”.

In a statement to the BBC, the company said: “We also have an ‘anti’ and violence policy which states that we will not allow ads that advocate against an organisation, person or group of people.”

When placing ads with Google, companies are able to specify which keywords they would like to target.

“It is up to individual advertisers to decide which keywords they want to choose to trigger their ads,” the search giant said.


The study analysed the type of advertisements that appeared on Google when certain names were searched for.

It looked at’s core search engine, as well as the search function of—which also displays Google’s advertising.

Prof Sweeney’s investigation suggests that names linked with black people—as defined by a previous study into racial discrimination in the workplace—were 25% more likely to have results that prompted the searcher to click on a link to search criminal record history.

She found that names like Leroy, Kareem and Keisha would yield advertisements that read “Arrested?”, with a link to a website which could perform criminal record checks.

Searches for names such as Brad, Luke and Katie would not—instead more likely to offer websites that can provide general contact details.

“There is discrimination in the delivery of these ads,” concluded Prof Sweeney, adding that there was a less than 1% chance that the findings could be based on chance.

“Alongside news stories about high school athletes and children can be ads bearing the child’s name and suggesting arrest. This seems concerning on many levels.”

User habits

However, she was reluctant to pinpoint a cause for the discrepancies, saying that to do so required “further information about the inner workings of Google AdSense”.

She noted that one possible cause may be Google’s “smart” algorithms—technology which automatically adapts advertising placement based on mass-user habits.

In other words, it may be that the search engines are reflecting society’s own prejudices—as the advertising results Google serves up are often based on the most popular links previous users have clicked on.

“Over time, as people tend to click one version of ad text over others, the weights change,” Prof Sweeney explained.

“So the ad text getting the most clicks eventually displays more frequently.”

She argued that technology should be used to counteract this effect.

“In the broader picture, technology can do more to thwart discriminatory effects and harmonise with societal norms.

“Ads responding to name searches appear in a specific information context and technology controls that context.”

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  • veritas_lux_mea

    It must be all those redneck, right-wing, racist nutjobs in Silicon Valley. They’re the ones that run google right?

  • JackKrak

    Hahahahaha. Even when you just leave it to machines that run on cold, dispassionate logarithms the inevitable result is Blacks = Crime.

    • MekongDelta69

      I know people tend to get insulted when you correct them, but the word you want is “algorithms”, not ‘logarithms.’

      Other than that, you’re exactly correct. A bit or a byte is not ‘racist’ or ‘partial’ or ‘prejudiced’ or any other ‘social construct.’ A bit returns either a ‘1’ for positive or ‘0’ for negative. A byte is merely 8 bits of ‘1s’ and ‘0s’.

      • JackKrak

        I stand corrected.

        Then again, I think you could put algorithms, logarithms, rhythm & blues or even the rhythm method into the computers & get the same results about blacks and crime.
        But you’re right.

        • MikeofAges

          I thought we had a natural sense of algorithms. LOL.

  • NeanderthalDNA

    I’m sure professor Latanya Sweeney is earning her pay there at Harvard.

    Maybe reality is just racist? Funny when smart algorithms figure out something a Harvard prof named “Latanya” can’t, eh?

    • The__Bobster
    • Ulick

      I once had a black lady tell me that she got three speeding tickets the past year. She then started complaining that one ticket was because the cop was racist. I bit my tongue and asked “What about the other two tickets?”

      “Those were from speeding cameras” she responded.

      I replied, “Were the cameras racist too?”

      • Non Humans

        That’s hilarious!
        I was pulled over many years ago by a Trooper. I was speeding, I admit it. After I gave him my info, he ask me if I knew why he pulled me over. I responded in my best black imitation “Because I’m Black!!” Once he quit laughing, I owned it, and got a warning. I laughed all the way home.

    • Some Guy

      The other article about cheating at Harvard makes sense now doesn’t it? This AA hire could not survive in the real world.

  • David Ashton

    Primary school teachers in England can anticipate which of their white pupils will be trouble from the forenames, and I know of cases where there has been an effort not to congregate too many in one class. I will not list our most glaring examples in case I annoy American readers who have a different list.

    • Katherine McChesney

      Not fair. Please share them.

      • David Ashton

        I think currently “Bradley” heads the male list and “Paige” the female.

    • Guest

      Do you mean “chav” names? Post away.

      • brengunn

        I never really minded the British chav names. It was in the 90’s when they started to use American pop star names like Destiny, Britney and other monstrosities that it started to annoy me. A child called Destiny and the mother’s an ugly fat slob, give me a break.

        • brengunn

          I pity the teachers who have to use the names of these children. I don’t think I could bring myself to address them.

          • Yorkshireman.

            Depending on where in UK parents reside, a name such as Ethan should be avoided at all costs as he will be called ee-fan for evermore.

    • Same thing in America. Any name with an apostrophe or any name ending in -avious, -arius, -quan, -tae, or -tez.

      Or any name where the bantu is just too stupid to spell a human name. Like the groid that named it’s spawn “Pierre” but spelled it “Pee Air”. (yes really!)

  • Sam

    I’ve known for a long time that Google image searches are hilarious. If you search on Dontavious Washington or similar 100% black names on Google Images, it’s all mug shots.

    The 20 blackest boys names are:

    DeShawn, DeAndre, Marquis, Darnell, Terrell, Malik, Trevon, Tyrone, Willie, Dominique. Demetrius, Reginald, Jamal, Maurice, Jalen, Darius, Xavier, Terrance, Andre, Darryl

    Any of these will be hilarious for image searches, especially with black last names like Washington, Jefferson, Booker, Banks and Jackson, it’s quite funny!

    Google is a computer. It’s not racist.

    • brengunn

      Haha. I nearly chocked when I googled those names! Seems like the only time blacks upload photos to the internet, they’re either playing basketball or having their mugshot taken.

      • Sam

        Haha. I nearly chocked when I googled those names!

        To get the best (funniest) results, combine the first and last names, like “Trevon Jefferson” or “Demetrius Washington”, and do an image search specifically. It’s hilarious! If there’s a sports / rap star of that name you’ll see some sports / rap pictures, and you’ll see a bunch of mug shots. Even “Trevon” returns a whole bunch of other criminals named Trevon, not just the little thug that GZ shot.

        Here’s a question for the Harvard professor: She’s claiming Google image search beez rayciss. Try doing an image search on the word “robber” and see what comes out. Hint: it doesn’t look anything like the mug shots that appear when you search for any common black name. All the first-page image search results on the word “robber” (the singular noun form) are white.

        Professor, why don’t you do some real research and discuss why it is that, according to Google image search, generic robbers are all white while actual robbers are all black?

        • Katherine McChesney

          I googled Dontavius. It came up with a site that claimed to show the meaning of the name…it claims the name is a combination of “Donte” and “Octavius”. Bwahahahahahaha. Hilarious. Some DWL wrote that.

      • Non Humans

        Or recording videos of their crimes on their “Sail Fownes”.

        “Google is a computer. It’s not racist.”
        I dunno man, with some of the assinine stuff that nonhumans do, computers just might be fed up with them.

        • Yorkshireman.

          If that pic has not been ‘photo-shopped’, I hope she does nor bear children although one can only imagine what any prospective father looks like.

    • Katherine McChesney

      I assembled some of the names and googled images…what i got was t-shirts and hoodies, basketball pictures. It corrected my spelling of ‘treyvon’.

    • Strider73

      It looks like blacks have been able to hijack several famous names. Tyrone is the name of a famous white actor and my family tree includes two Maurices (and I would be remiss in omitting this famous actor).

      • Ulick

        County Tyrone is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland. When my brother and I first discovered that when we were young, we joked that County Tyrone is where all the Black Irish must live.

      • saxonsun

        Notice all the ancient Greek names these clowns give their kids. Insulting!

    • Yorkshireman.

      Of course, in Africa, the true home for these ‘AA’s, the given names are totally different and it is quite usual to find Sunday, Happy, Goodwill, Blessed, Fortune, God Blessed and similar English language words. I doubt if there is a single ‘Latrine’ (or similar) as they know exactly what that means.

      • Norman

        In the African country which is the furthest one south, our majority (your minority) do have names like Happy, which is the English translation of their tribal name. Happy – Jabulani, Gift – Mpho, Peace – Khotso, to name but a few.

      • Katherine McChesney

        But, I have heard of Latrina.

  • pcmustgo

    I’ve seen these ads up for Social Worker degree certificates that feature a black baby with blue eyes…. bet that draws them in.

  • MekongDelta69

    Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney

    That’s as far as I needed to read…

    • StillModerated

      Have you googled her image, yet? Ugh! Lesbo City.

      • TheTRUTH

        Yeah, just googled “her” image too. IT’S A MAN BABY!!!!!!!!!

      • Katherine McChesney

        It’ IS a man!

  • bigone4u

    Two stories in one day featuring idiot black Harvard professors on Amren. Does Harvard even have any professors who are not persons of color anymore?


    With Professor Sweeny’s reasoning skills exposed for what they are, you have to wonder whether she is the best qualified person to fill that position. Perhaps she is in black or feminist studies, which are phony academic fields. A phony prof in a phony field.

    • Steve

      Haha, she’s in the Department of Government!

      She’s the expert telling us (white taxpayers) how we should be governed.

      We have dug ourselves into a deep hole, with people like Eric Holder being able to arrest any of us, and people like Professor Sweeney telling us how to run our government.

      • gemjunior

        Dat sho be one ugly monkey

        • bigone4u

          She appears to be a heavy set man, doesn’t she. Thanks for the pic and info Steve.

        • Steve

          Dat ugly monkey has more power than any of us, and makes more money than any of us, and can’t be fired, and gets a pension and healthcare for life. She’s a professor at Harvard who tells our government how to run itself.

          As I said, we’ve dug ourselves into a deep hole, putting weirdos like this professor into the top positions in society. We have anti-white racists in the presidency, the AG, top positions at our top universities, in all our local government offices. The liberal idea is to keep digging the hole deeper. Give them more money and more power and eventually they will start acting like whites. That is not going to work, and the only ways I can see to get out of this hole are some ugly ways.

          • Non Humans

            I actually had an in-depth conversation with a close friend of mine this weekend on some of the agendas of the Libtards and the “Global Elites”. His angle is that of a criminal government. My presence here speaks for itself.
            Consider how it is no secret that the nonhumans naturally congregate and concentrate to inner-city areas because of their concentration of resources. Notice how it further and further pushes whites out into more rural areas. As scary as it is, if you consider what will happen when we hit another serious recession, a total collapse of our economy, or it “Breaks Off” (as the alot of people put it) where gas and food either become extremely scarce or prohibitively expensive, and then EBT/welfare is shutoff, the riots etc, that the nonhumans will enact. Even worse is that whites who are completely blindsided by it will likely flock to the cities looking for resources and be victimized by the nonhumans there.
            It appears as though that the nonhumans could very possibly be being groomed (by our government and its’ controllers) as weapons to demolish a good chunk of whites when that does happen. I don’t give to conspiracy theories easily, but I feel that the idea is somewhat perplexing, and at least worth a moments consideration. Look at the LA riots and the Katrina aftermath, then think about that on a national scale.

      • IstvanIN

        That’s a woman? Boy, times have changed.

        • Garrett Brown


      • Tim_in_Indiana

        She’s typically overweight (is that also an unfounded stereotype?) and looks like a lesbian.

        • Sam

          Any black lesbian with a high school diploma is qualified to be a Harvard professor.

      • Garrett Brown

        Good lord she’s freaking ugly. I’d be mad at the world too if I looked like that!

      • Katherine McChesney

        That’s a man’s shirt she’s wearing.

  • Bill

    My first reaction to the article was to laugh right out loud. And I think I’ll leave it right at that!

  • brengunn

    Ever wonder why the ad breaks during reality TV shows are full of injury lawyers, gold buyers, money lenders and diet fads? Because they know their target market, that’s why. I suspect the same is true of google ads.

  • Amused

    I swear this is a true story: Back in my army days, I was on the other side of a partition listening to two black junior NCO’s discussing a black female E-4 who was on maternity leave. One asked the other what the mother had named the child. One told the other it was some outlandish nonsense like ‘Detrayquanvious’ or such. The 2nd black laughed & said ‘expletive’, that baby be in the 3rd grade before it can spell its name!’

    • Strider73

      More likely it would never learn to read or write, much less spell its name.

    • George

      That sounds likely. He’d be 18 or 19 by then…

  • IstvanIN

    It isn’t the computer program that is racist, it is the tubes and transistors that are racists. Darn that hardware.

  • Let’s put Shitavious and Aquanetta into the algo and see where it goes …….

    (Both are real names)

    • bigone4u

      Acquanetta (July 17, 1921 – August 16, 2004), nicknamed “The Venezuelan Volcano,” was a B-movie actress known for her exotic beauty.
      Acquanetta was her last name, Burnu was her first. She was an American Indian. The question in my mind is why do blacks pick these sorts of names. Is there anything close to logic that would explain it. Mysterious.

      • Pat

        Probably because they are not white names. Names are possibly another way of showing that assimilation between cultures never really happens – anywhere.

      • David Ashton

        Mysterious could be a name too.

  • Jane Lek

    It is called reality. If you want to sell sunscreen or operatic recordings you don’t advertise in Jet magazine. Latanya has too much time on her hands.

  • haroldcrews

    This paper amply demonstrates the paucity of actual anti-Black discrimination by Whites. Such tenuous grasping at straws shows that actual discrimination against Blacks is all but absent. It is no more than a will-o’-the-wisp used to frighten the simple and foster malice towards Whites.

  • TheTRUTH

    Google IS racist! Think about it. It’s the DOMINANT search engine, so it MUST be racist! On the other hand, Yahoo, Bing, etc are NOT racist. They are the MINORITY search engine, so they CAN’T be racist. They don’t have the power to be racist, unlike Google!!! I always knew Google was racist!!!

    Now, if it were Yahoo or Bing doing this to black people, the White liberals would be bewildered.

  • Glancing at the original BBC article, I notice several things:

    A link to a story about racism depicts a white person. A link about “salvaging memories” shows a white person. The “day in pictures” link shows Asians. The “BBC future” link shows blacks. According to the BBC, whites belong in the past, Asians in the present and blacks in the future – and by golly, BBC will do everything in its power to make this so!

  • Some Guy

    Racism, the new McCarthyism for the 21st Century. Forget terrorist, forget open borders, forget murdering rapists running free, racism is the supreme evil now! And when I say racism, only Whites can be rayciss!

    • David Ashton

      “Stalinism” not “McCarthyism”. Old Joe was mostly on the right track.

  • [Guest]

    Latanya Sweeney is a flake of the familiar kind. But the fault lies with “institutions of higher learning” that give the likes of Sweeney the appearance of legitimacy.

    >>>”There is discrimination…”

    It would be nice if we could break the back of this once perfectly useful word. It’s right and necessary that people distinguish and discern between things (i.e., discriminate).

  • SintiriNikos

    Perhaps the good professor googled her first name and got offended by what popped up.

    “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” — Willie Sutton,