Facebook’s search function has been accused of treating pictures of men and women very differently. The algorithm was reported to readily provide results to the search “photos of my female friends” but yield no results to the search “photos of my male friends”. According to Joseph (2019) of WIRED Magazine, the algorithm assumed that “male” was a typo for the word “female”. Worse, when users searched for “photos of my female friends” the search function auto-filled suggestions like “in bikinis” or “at the beach” (Joseph 2019). Researchers explain the disparity as the algorithm promoting popular searches over those that are rarely made. This means that since people often search for “photos of my female friends in bikinis”, the algorithm has grown adept at providing such photos and suggesting the search option. Despite being written as unassuming lines of code, algorithms assume the form of whatever data is fed to them, often resulting in the candid reflection of human wants, behavior, tendencies, and, in this case, sexism.
Unknown, but addressed
Facebook’s implementation was in to 2006
Sexist discrimination found in 2019
- Matsakis, L (2019): “A ‘Sexist’ search bug says more about us than Facebook”. In Wired https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-female-friends-photo-search-bug/