Help, Google Says I'm Gay

from the tales-from-the-playground dept

An English soccer player is suing a couple of the country’s tabloids in an unusual libel case. The tabloids ran stories detailing the sexual activities of two well-known soccer players and a music-industry figure, never naming them, but running photos with their faces blurred out. Now one player, Ashley Cole, is suing the papers for “false privacy”, alleging their stories sparked off third-party speculation that Cole was one of the players, and that he was gay. Where things get a little more interesting is that Cole’s lawyer has contacted Google, wanting to know why when users search for “Ashley Cole”, Google suggests “see results for “Ashley Cole gay”. The lawyer wants to know if the alternate-results suggestion is an “editorial decision”, or — as seems more likely — a result of the heavy increase in people searching for “Ashley Cole gay” over the last several days. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before Google gets hit with a lawsuit for something like this, given that it’s a big target and the increasing scrutiny under which how it guards the privacy of its users is coming. But like the Perfect 10 case, any blame here is misplaced, assuming that the alternate search terms are the result of some computer algorithm — Google can’t be held responsible for the things for which its users search.

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Comments on “Help, Google Says I'm Gay”

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Xanthir says:

Just an algorithm blip

I was actually just reading about this over on Language Log.

Basically, google has a relatively new feature that will find related search term groups to what you asked for. If any group is heavily queried, it may display the results for it along with your actual query.

So, lots of people were serching for “The Guy’s Name” + gay, due to the tabloid articles. Thus, when you search for just “The Guy’s Name”, google helpfully also provides results with the +gay added to the query.

The fact that this is being publicized will just enhance the effect, because there will be even more queries with gay in them.

Streissand effect, anyone?

Buck (user link) says:

Google thinks I am gay too!

Google thinks I’m Gay

Google has a new feature that can create “recommended stories”, based on your search history.

If you use the Google News feature, and you have (for example) a google email account, they will try and process your searches, and make recommedations based on what they think are your personal interests.

Recently I have done a few searches about the Oscars. Just me looking up what different media around the world think of the nominations. As you might expect there are a lot that mention Brokeback Mountain, and Truman Capote…

Innocent right?

Well now Google thinks I am Gay… Almost all the “recommended stories” they show me have Gay in the headline.

Mass. Town Denounces Attack at Gay Bar
Maryland Gay-Marriage Ban Killed After Democratic Move
Pink plaques for gay Brighton

And so on…

So here I am trying to convince Google that I am not gay. I am doing searches on Canadian Politics, something I am interested in, like Gomery Report, and Paul Martin. I am even throwing in a few searches for World Wide Wrestling, and NHL Hockey just to try and sway the results.

It is not working. It looks like Google is going to be convinced I am Gay for awhile.

Hey did you know Brokeback Mountain, the story of two gay cowboys, was filmed in politically ultra-conservative Province of Alberta, which incidentally is the home of the NHL Calgary Flames? Well, now I do.

admin (user link) says:

Re: Google thinks I am gay too!

oh no.. now google will think you are a gay canadian hockey player!

but on a serious note, one does have to wonder if
Google could be sued for slander. Suppose there
was an accusation of a young soccer player having
a relationship with a younger girl – lets say 16.
In fact, it was his niece and some paparazi
snapped a few too many pics and the tabloids
bought into it. Now a google search comes up to
suggest “Joe Soccer pedaphile”. I would think
that would be slanderous no?

Lee says:

Re: Re: Google thinks I am gay too!

Doesn’t something need to be intentional to be considered “slanderous”?

If what google is doing is generated solely by what people around the world are searching for, then it can’t be intentionally slanderous. (Keep in mind I said “if”).
Theoretically its all random words being matched up.

Ryan Huckstep says:

Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole is so overrated. I am a Man U fan but I must say well done to Arsenal for pulling off the Gallas/Cole switch. They even got 5 million on top. Well done. I have yet to see Ashley Cole play a decent game for England, Arsenal, or Chelsea. And I would be saying exactly the same if I was a Chelsea fan (perish the thought), of that I have no doubt.
I say nothing of him as a man, but as a football player he is absolute crap.
To make England decent again we must do three things, kick out Ashley Cole and Steve McClaren and bring back Becks! GO MAN UNITED!!!!!!!!!!

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