After posting on Friday about the terrible issue with Googling about autism, an old high-school friend of mine who works for Google got in touch with me. He sent my blog to a co-worker in charge of the search predictions, who had this response:
“We are aware of the problem, and as you rightly noted, these predictions violate our policies on hate speech. We have a bug open to get rid of them – a solution should be live soon. Feel free to tell your friend that we’re aware of the problem and working to fix it.”
My friend went on to tell me,
“We (at Google) don’t like seeing this stuff any more than you do, and we wish it was easier to keep it off the site. It’s just a constant losing battle so things will always slip through. I’d be happy to continue championing the autism cleanup for you, though.”
So, I’d say that sounds pretty good. They know it’s happening. They agree it’s wrong. They’re going to fix it. And, I’ve been personally assured that at least 1 person out there at Google will fight this fight alongside the rest of us. I believe the only thing left to do (after fixing it of course) is for Google to publicly acknowledge what happened, and how they feel about it. I know the autism community would appreciate the support. I look forward to progress being made here.
In other news…I decided to try my luck with 2 of the other largest search engine sites. Here’s what I found on Yahoo!:
Besides the shocking “demon possessed” suggestion, and a couple of other hurtful results, the rest were FAR less violent than what I found on Google. Then, I was impressed when I saw these:
It appears Yahoo! has put something into place to block any suggestions from coming up when you search “need” or “should” in relation to autistic people. Good for them! And I was pleased to see the positive choices that come up when searching about autistic people. So besides a few that still slipped through (which I hope Yahoo! will address and delete), Yahoo! offered significantly more positive options, and significantly less hateful ones.
Next, I tried Bing. Here’s what I found:
Ugh. Several suggestions of death, danger, and evil. Not good!!
Okay…now we’re getting somewhere. Still mixed results, but at least I’m seeing some positive ideas like “smart” and “superior souls”…
Ah-hah….just like Yahoo! it appears Bing has blocked any results from popping up for a couple of those phrases. Good effort! Unfortunately, although they’ve safe-guarded “autistic kids should”, searching “autistic people should” still resulted in a death suggestion. So, they’ve still got work to do! Bing certainly needs to clean up some of the suggestions they offer up regarding autism.
Overall, Yahoo! seemed to offer the least damaging results when searching about autism. In comparison to Google, their results were significantly less inflammatory. Google remains the most saturated with hateful suggestions. And Bing seems to be in the middle, offering both very negative and some positive results.
My take-away- The fact that these search engines are displaying disturbing content in regards to autism boils down to the simple fact that THOSE are the most common searches conducted. The search engines need to take responsibility for what they are allowing on their websites, and should be actively working to eliminate the hatred they are promoting. But the bigger picture is not about a website that automatically offers popular searches…. it’s that the most popular searches about autism are hateful, violent, and just plain evil. It’s that the world at large still has dangerous attitudes and beliefs about people with ASD.
I cannot wrap my head around what would possess someone to sit at their computer and type that any people group should “die” or “be killed”. I’m baffled at why ANYONE would say those things, much less why A TON of people would say those things.
It’s depressing that with all the knowledge out there that people are still so uninformed and so aggressive towards people with autism. How could people out there think these horrible things about people like my little brother? I don’t understand.
All I can hope is that once these search engines have fully erased all the hateful suggestions, people will start seeing positive things pop-up about autism. And, maybe…just maybe…that exposure will change people’s minds. Beyond that, we in the autism community can continue to do our best to promote acceptance and understanding, letting our patience and love be an example to others.
We live in such a sad and broken world….