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“Why do white people have thin lips?”: Google and the perpetuation of stereotypes via auto-complete search forms

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2013
<mark>Journal</mark>Critical Discourse Studies
Issue number2
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)187-204
Early online date22/01/13
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This study highlights how the auto-complete search algorithm offered by the search tool Google can produce suggested terms which could be viewed as racist, sexist or homophobic. Google was interrogated by entering different combinations of question words and identity terms such as ‘why are blacks…’ in order to elicit auto-completed questions. Two thousand, six hundred and ninety questions were elicited and then categorised according to the qualities they referenced. Certain identity groups were found to attract particular stereotypes or qualities. For example, Muslims and Jewish people were linked to questions about aspects of their appearance or behaviour, while white people were linked to questions about their sexual attitudes. Gay and black identities appeared to attract higher numbers of questions that were negatively stereotyping. The article concludes by questioning the extent to which such algorithms inadvertently help to perpetuate negative stereotypes.