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Googling “three black teenagers” throws up weird results

A video by an American high school student highlights the internet’s bias and racial profiling

A viral video has brought to light a disturbing thing that happens when searching images online: if you type “three black teenagers” into Google Images, you’ll find pictures of mugshots. Type in “three white teenagers” and you’ll get smiley stock photos.

An American high school student created the video and shared it on Twitter to highlight the difference. Kabir Alli performed the first search on his phone, then said to camera “Now, let’s just change the colour”. The contrast between the ominous pages of prisoners and wholesome young white kids caused the group to screech with laughter. The result is laughably ridiculous, and horribly reflective of a society that consistently participates in racial profiling.

Alli told the Guardian that his friends had informed him of the weird search method: “When I saw the results for myself I was shocked.”

Since his tweet, many have responded to criticise Google for its supposed racism. However, Alli called these claims “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.” He explained. So basically, the search illustrates what people upload and share, which in turn highlights their own racist undertones, rather than a search engine which responds to what people search, click and share the most. The mass media, for example, tends to make it very clear in their headlines that a teenager’s black – before anything else – when reporting a crime.

A spokesperson from Google told Complex that the search algorithm was not within their control, as it reflects content from Internet users. “Our image search results are a reflection of content from across the web, including the frequency with which types of images appear and the way they’re described online.

“This means that sometimes unpleasant portrayals of sensitive subject matter online can affect what image search results appear for a given query."