The most racist places in America, according to Google

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For the PLOS ONE paper, researchers looked at searches containing the N-word. People search frequently for it, roughly as often as searches for  “migraine(s),” “economist,” “sweater,” “Daily Show,” and “Lakers.” (The authors attempted to control for variants of the N-word not necessarily intended as pejoratives, excluding the “a” version of the word that analysis revealed was often used “in different contexts compared to searches of the term ending in ‘-er’.”)

Study Shows Mass Surveillance Breeds Meekness, Fear and Self-Censorship

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The new study documents how, in the wake of the 2013 Snowden revelations (of which 87 percent of Americans were aware), there was “a 20 percent decline in page views on Wikipedia articles related to terrorism, including those that mentioned ‘al Qaeda,’ ‘car bomb’ or ‘Taliban.’” People were afraid to read articles about those topics because of fear that doing so would bring them under a cloud of suspicion. The dangers of that dynamic were expressed well by Penney: “If people are spooked or deterred from learning about important policy matters like terrorism and national security, this is a real threat to proper democratic debate.”

As the Post explains, several other studies have also demonstrated how mass surveillance crushes free expression and free thought. A 2015 study examined Google search data and demonstrated that, post-Snowden, “users were less likely to search using search terms that they believed might get them in trouble with the U.S. government” and that these “results suggest that there is a chilling effect on search behavior from government surveillance on the internet.”

Google Charmed By Grandma’s Polite Searches

screengrab of google search

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“I asked my nan why she used ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and it seemed she thinks that there is someone — a physical person — at Google’s headquarters who looks after the searches,” he told the BBC.

“She thought that by being polite and using her manners, the search would be quicker.”

…”I thought, well somebody’s put it in, so you’re thanking them,” she told the radio network.

“I don’t know how it works to be honest. It’s all a mystery to me.”

Forget conspiracy theories – here’s why Google’s ‘Conservatives are’ blacklist is worrying

Google Conserative

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This week, people noticed that entering “Conservatives are” to Google doesn’t result in any suggested searches popping up – in contrast to searches for “Labour are”, which offers up “… finished”, “… a joke”, and “… scum”, or “Libdems are”, which offers “… finished”, “… pointless” and “… traitors” as search suggestions.

It’s not the first time seemingly arbitrary Google search suggestions have hit the news. The service generally allows suggestions to be produced purely algorithmically, based on common searches. But sometimes it steps in, either to remove specific suggestions, or, more typically, to override the system and prevent a specific term returning any searches at all.

It’s that lack of explanation that leads some to leap to conspiracy. There’s no evidence to suggest when the term “Conservatives” was added to the blacklist, and Google won’t tell me, but the mere timing of its discovery has drawn people to ask whether it’s part of some shady deal regarding the company’s £130m sweetheart deal with HMRC over back taxes.

 

Why have I never been asked out? You asked Google – here’s the answer

‘This is why you’re never been asked out. Because very few people are sure enough of themselves to ask you.’

‘This is why you’re never been asked out. Because very few people are sure enough of themselves to ask you.’ Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Polygram

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Every day millions of internet users ask Google some of life’s most difficult questions, big and small. Our writers answer some of the most common queries [such as]:

Why have I never been asked out?

…Why do humans kiss?

…What if I never get over him (or her)?

 

What Google can show us about our reaction to mass shootings

12-08-2015

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You and millions of others turn to Google, where you type in the location of this shooting. You tweet or update Facebook about your rage, your frustration that this has happened again, your despair that politicians will still do nothing to protect you or anyone else from the next mass shooting. Because there will be more. The pattern will repeat itself. We know this. We’ve seen this.

Then you probably forget about it for a bit. Until news about the next mass shooting breaks.

According to Google Trends, interest in a mass shooting peaks on the day of or the day after, and then almost immediately drops off the day after that.

We care about these tragedies. We care about gun control. Why do we lose interest so fast?

Personal (Search) History

Illustration by Erik Carter

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One afternoon, riding the bus in downtown Montreal, Madelyne Beckles swiped open her phone to browse the web. She caught sight of her most recent mobile searches — ‘‘Snooki diet,’’ ‘‘Miley Cyrus’ sex tape,’’ ‘‘Bruno Mars songs’’ — and found this collection to be absurd but unexpectedly poignant: an unvarnished glimpse into the meanderings of her mind. Beckles, a 23-year-old visual artist whose work explores her relationship to technology, took a screen grab and shared the image on Instagram. This became the genesis of her newest project, called Herstory: Every so often, Beckles pulls up her mobile search history and saves it with a screen shot.

Beckles says she likes how this public display of her innermost thoughts, represented by her search terms, conveys an uncomfortable truth: that we are rarely as sophisticated and erudite as the versions of ourselves we publish online. ‘‘It is what I have actually searched, and it is how my mind works,’’ she said. She described viewing the images as ‘‘opening an underwear drawer of thoughts.’’