Posted on June 9, 2016

‘Three Black Teenagers’: Anger as Google Image Search Shows Police Mugshots

Elle Hunt, Guardian, June 9, 2016


“Three black teenagers” was a trending search on Google on Thursday after a US high school student pointed out the stark difference in results for “three black teenagers” and “three white teenagers”.

Kabir Alli of Virginia posted a clip to Twitter of himself carrying out a straightforward search of “three black teenagers”, which overwhelmingly turns up prisoners’ mugshots.

“Now let’s just change the colour …”

He and others erupt in laughter when the result for “three white teenagers” show stock photos of smiling, wholesome-looking young people.

The tweet has been retweeted by more than 60,100 users and favourited nearly 55,500 times since it was posted on Tuesday–but Alli’s video was later reposted by World Star Hip Hop, an entertainment website with an enormous following on social media.

Alli told Guardian Australia that he had heard about the discrepancy in search results from friends. “When I saw the results for myself I was shocked.”

He said some users had responded to his tweet calling Google racist, which he said was “preposterous”.

“The results were formed through the algorithm they set up. They aren’t racist but I feel like they should have more control over something like that.”

The results reached by Alli differ to what Google Images displays for “three black teenagers” now, partly as a result of coverage of his experiment.

It follows a similar exercise by student Bonnie Kamona, who posted a screenshot of search results for “unprofessional hairstyles for work”, showing natural African-American hair.

“Professional hairstyles for work” was dominated by pictures of blonde, white women.