×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Racism In Online Ad Targeting

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the perhaps-profiling-is-a-better-name dept.

Advertising 474

An anonymous reader writes "Most of us are familiar with advertisements in online web searching, and by now we've grown accustomed to scrolling past the 'sponsored' results to get to the real responses to our query. And we know the ads are context-sensitive; for example, searching for our favorite Federation Starship will bring up ads for a similarly-named car-rental agency. But now a Harvard University professor has found a more disturbing trend in those contextual ads: racism. 'Sweeney says she has evidence that black identifying names are up to 25 per cent more likely to be served with an arrest-related ad. "There is discrimination in delivery of these ads," she concludes. Sweeney gathered this evidence by collecting over 2000 names that were suggestive of race. For example, first names such as Trevon, Lakisha and Darnell suggest the owner is black while names like Laurie, Brendan and Katie suggest the owner is white. She then entered these plus surnames into Google.com and Reuters.com and examined the ads they returned. Most names generated ads for public records. However, black-identifying names turned out to be much more likely than white-identifying names to generate ads that including the word "arrest" (60 per cent versus 48 per cent).'"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

474 comments

Last name is black (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42789989)

Hey my last name is black. does that make me black?

All the world problems solved! (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790013)

Now we can all rest easy knowing that Harvard Law Processors have nothing better to do than look thru ads on google.

Racism is a cause, (4, Insightful)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about a year ago | (#42790017)

not an effect. Making use of stats is not racism. Racism is denying the fact that many blacks in the US have been disadvantaged and largely as a result are more likely to commit crimes and get arrested. Pretending the numbers don't exist is horrible.

Re:Racism is a cause, (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790129)

You haven't identified the cause either. The most elite, wealthy, privileged blacks are still far more likely to commit crimes than the most disadvantaged non-blacks (including downtrodden whites in Appalachia, incredibly poor Asian immigrants with no English skills, etc).

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about a year ago | (#42790217)

The most elite, wealthy, privileged blacks are still far more likely to commit crimes than the most disadvantaged non-blacks (including downtrodden whites in Appalachia, incredibly poor Asian immigrants with no English skills, etc).

How does their likelihood of committing a crime compare against other elite, wealthy, privileged individuals?

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year ago | (#42790447)

As a male, I enjoy being targeted for dating sites, and the like.
Wait.. that is discrimination... what if I were bi, or gay? CURSE YOU LAWYERS!

Re:Racism is a cause, (5, Funny)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year ago | (#42790761)

Google adsense thinks I'm gay.

Apparently if you have an interest in weapons (I'm a military contractor) and yoga (and fitness instructor), you're also interested in an all-you-can-eat sausage buffet.

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42790573)

The most elite, wealthy, privileged blacks are still far more likely to commit crimes than the most disadvantaged non-blacks

Why would you claim that? You're certainly more likely to hear about crimes committed by wealthy rappers or sports stars than you are from somebody hanging out in the local trailer park. That doesn't mean they actually commit more such crimes.

I think a more likely customer here is black professionals. They have money and are relatively likely to have relatives going through the courts.

Re:Racism is a cause, (0, Troll)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year ago | (#42790777)

The biggest criminals in the US are rich white men.

The amount of petty theft in the history of the US pales in comparison to what the bankers got away with in 2008.

Re:Racism is a cause, (3, Interesting)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#42790841)

You haven't identified the cause either. The most elite, wealthy, privileged blacks are still far more likely to commit crimes than the most disadvantaged non-blacks (including downtrodden whites in Appalachia, incredibly poor Asian immigrants with no English skills, etc).

Now THIS sounds like racism. I've known many wealthy blacks as well as wealthy whites and I personally don't know ANY wealthy blacks that have committed crimes, but I know several whites that have been arrested by the FBI or the cops for their shady business dealings or embezzlement. This is just one data point, but I would doubt very highly that the quoted statement is true.

Re:Racism is a cause, (5, Insightful)

dehole (1577363) | about a year ago | (#42790169)

One cannot escape that in the US, there are more black inmates than white or hispanic. The reason for their incarceration may be race related (eg the popular DWB: driving while black, crime that many innocent people are charged with), but the fact remains that yes, a higher percentage of black people in the US are in US jails with respect to white people.

Maybe we can take the time to find out why this is the case, and correct it, rather than pretend that using official stats is racist.

Re:Racism is a cause, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790309)

No, the true cause is because they are less intelligent and more lacking in impulse control than other races and this is because they are less evolved. Mod me down but it's the truth. Blacks are a failure by our standards everywhere they are. It doesn't matter where whether in Detroit, Haiti, or the Congo.

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

Lord Apathy (584315) | about a year ago | (#42790405)

Yes!

This is exactly what I've said over and over. Honestly, I believe we don't go looking for the problem because we are afraid of what we might find. Well high time we find out why the stats are coming out like this and find the real problem.

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year ago | (#42790671)

This is exactly what I've said over and over. Honestly, I believe we don't go looking for the problem because we are afraid of what we might find. Well high time we find out why the stats are coming out like this and find the real problem.

Honestly, it appears that you have already made your mind up about what we're going to find.

When study after study shows that being dealt a bad hand leads to higher arrest and conviction rates, one thing worth trying is not dealing so many bad hands. But that's not really what you want to hear, is it?

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#42790551)

Maybe we can take the time to find out why this is the case, and correct it...

Start with abolishing prohibition.

Re:Racism is a cause, (3, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#42790643)

Maybe we can take the time to find out why this is the case, and correct it, rather than pretend that using official stats is racist.

It's Self Correcting: For instance, I now realize the justice system is a farce, a sham, an actual injustice system in disguise -- I realized this after video footage of police having my car towed and accidentally dropping it on its side off a flat-bed trailer was disallowed by a judge in a case where I was being charged for leaving the scene of an accident: A "side-swipe" -- an event which never happened, and that I now have on my record.

So, the correction is as follows: Don't see crime and arrest related things as "bad". They exist, and arrest related services are extremely necessary if you live in a damned police state. When "Thug Life" can be embraced by pasty white nerds such as I, then ads related to arrest statistics is fine, it's good, it's not racism, it's targeting a legitimate need of those who say, "Fuck the Police."

What's racist is the "black identifying names" in TFA. Now that's racist. What? Because I'm a Caucasoid I can't be named a "black" name? Dark skinned folk can't be named "white" names? Fuck that. The "racism" their research discovers is due to self selecting phenomenon called: GIGO. Had they polled actual black identifying humans to discover their actual targeted advertising frequencies then their research may have had a shred of legitimacy.

If you REALLY want real answers for "why this is the case" WRT why "a higher percentage of black people in the US are in US jails" then you need go no further than analyzing corruption (including racism) in the police forces. What's the racial distribution of the law enforcers? The law is disproportionately enforced.

Copyright infringement is no longer a civil matter, it's been criminalized. You see? Police states eventually equalize the disproportionate felony frequency across all races: It's self correcting.

Re:Racism is a cause, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790651)

"...correct it..."

Correct what, exactly? Focusing exclusively on blacks and "correcting the problem" is pretty damn racist.

How about instead we focus on why so many of any race are incarcerated and focus on fixing that instead. If, while doing so, we discover cultural influences specific to a certain group, maybe we can address that as part of a larger goal.

Re:Racism is a cause, (4, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#42790177)

The problem is that it re-enforces the stereotype and actually does cause certain behaviour. If you constantly tell one group they are a bunch of criminals and just assume they are probably up to no good then you shouldn't be surprised when it turns out they are.

The point of treating everyone equally is to make it clear that regardless of race or gender or sexual orientation or whatever you have the same chance, the same opportunity to make something of yourself. Of course in reality not everyone has access to good schools or good jobs, but if you keep re-enforcing that imagine it strengthens it. We still need to push to level the playing field, despite all the progress that has been made.

Re: Racism is a cause, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790277)

Sounds like Socialism to me!

Re:Racism is a cause, (0)

AtomicBison (2667343) | about a year ago | (#42790325)

The problem is that it re-enforces the stereotype and actually does cause certain behaviour.

Wouldn't this extend out to every ad? If I search for tech related terms, they are reinforcing the tech stereotype by giving me more tech ads. You've placed a line arbitrarily in the sand with race. If everyone were truly treated equally, wouldn't ads NOT cater to the individual?

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#42790449)

Well, drawing some lines is inevitable. You can discriminate when hiring an employee based on whether they seem interested in and enthusiastic about technology, but you can't discriminate based on their race.

Re:Racism is a cause, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790621)

Yes you can, you just can't state that as being the reason you didn't hire them. It's easy, it's called being a closeted bigot. Happens all the time. Not really a big deal either. Seriously, would you want to work for a closeted bigot? Then why get upset when they won't hire you, obviously you wouldn't have gotten along, what with them being a bigot and all. You're better off not getting the job and letting them continue on their bigoted way, slowly getting beaten out by companies that hire based on merit and not tanning skill.

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42790445)

The problem is that it re-enforces the stereotype and actually does cause certain behaviour. If you constantly tell one group they are a bunch of criminals and just assume they are probably up to no good then you shouldn't be surprised when it turns out they are.

The point of treating everyone equally is to make it clear that regardless of race or gender or sexual orientation or whatever you have the same chance, the same opportunity to make something of yourself. Of course in reality not everyone has access to good schools or good jobs, but if you keep re-enforcing that imagine it strengthens it. We still need to push to level the playing field, despite all the progress that has been made.

So, the TLDR is you're saying all moms should name their kids with white names, because that apparently magically makes the kids turn out to not be criminals? Even if it has been proven to work, I'm not thinking that magical theory should be how we should live. Because obviously "twyronee" is expected to grow up to become a carjacker whereas "thurston" is expected to go to haavard and/or get stuck on deserted tropical island along with the professor and mary anne. So just name "twyronee" with the superior name "thurston" and we have proven scientific principles that we're all good here, right?

I will say there is something to this name-ism stuff in that all the young monicas and tiffannys and stephanies I've met have been hotties, like magic or something that 20 years after being named they automagically look good. And I'm talking about real birth certificate names not stripper names. And all the VLMs I've meet turn out to be fantastic individuals, truly role models for the new century. I'm not really sure what all the implications are of my great discovery, beyond the obvious nobel peace prize, for which I'm obviously more qualified than the last couple losers who got the prize.

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790513)

It does no such thing. If you constantly tell a group of people they are more likely to have Down's syndrome, does that make them more likely to have it too? Or more likely to test their kids for it? If you constantly tell a group of people they're not good enough, do you think that would only serve to depress them or make some more motivated to prove you wrong? If I tell you that, statistically, you're in a group that is more likely to do drugs, does that make you want to do drugs? The only people who could would have statistical facts change what and who they are have some very severe personality disorders.

No one is constantly telling anyone these things. These are observations of facts, none of which state, in any way, shape or form that "one group are a bunch of criminals". Only complete, willful ignorance can get you from one to the other. And complete, willful ignorance is the root of racism, not repeated statistical facts.

The point of treating everyone equally is so that the morons who think fair and equal are the same thing will be happy. Treating people equally is completely unfair - if you don't understand that, then, ladies, here's your urinal, and guys, please use your tampons. Slow down, we're staying on chapter one until everyone gets it even if it takes all year, and where are your glasses? I don't care if you can see perfectly, everyone has to wear them.

We should treat people fairly, and that's where we fail. Not from racism, but from money. If you really want to see statistics show a favored group, plot amount spent on your lawyer vs. sentence severity.

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | about a year ago | (#42790599)

The problem is that it re-enforces the stereotype and actually does cause certain behaviour. If you constantly tell one group they are a bunch of criminals and just assume they are probably up to no good then you shouldn't be surprised when it turns out they are.

Can you clarify what behavior you're referring to here? I don't understand what you mean by someone simultaneously:

  • assuming a class of people are up to no good, and
  • being surprised that they are.

Re:Racism is a cause, (4, Insightful)

Daetrin (576516) | about a year ago | (#42790203)

"Racism is denying the fact that many blacks in the US have been disadvantaged and largely as a result are more likely to get arrested."

Fixed that for you. Even when they haven't committed any crime non-white people in general and black people in particular are more likely to get harassed by cops. They're also more likely to be arrested if they have committed a crime and once arrested more likely to go to jail. That is especially the case if the crime is something relatively minor, say getting caught with pot. If you're white and well off that would probably be a wrist slap at worst. If you're black and poor however...

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about a year ago | (#42790579)

if you are black you can almost guarantee that you will be charged "...with intent to distribute"

Re:Racism is a cause, (5, Informative)

Lord Apathy (584315) | about a year ago | (#42790265)

What I always find amazing is we like to point fingers at results and scream racism. How about we look at what caused the statiscs to be that way in the first place?

How about this for some hard core news? Black males between the ages of 13 and 30 commit more crimes per race than any other race. 1/3 of black males in that age group are ether, in prison, on parol, or waiting to be tried for something.

How about we stop bitch'n about the satistics and screaming racism about every little thing? Why don't we take our heads out of the sand and start looking at the real god damn problem and trying to fix it? No, its far easier to scream racism than to fix the god damn problem.

Re:Racism is a cause, (0)

Lord Apathy (584315) | about a year ago | (#42790563)

What I always find amazing is we like to point fingers at results and scream racism. How about we look at what caused the statiscs to be that way in the first place? How about this for some hard core news? Black males between the ages of 13 and 30 commit more crimes per race than any other race. 1/3 of black males in that age group are ether, in prison, on parol, or waiting to be tried for something. How about we stop bitch'n about the satistics and screaming racism about every little thing? Why don't we take our heads out of the sand and start looking at the real god damn problem and trying to fix it? No, its far easier to scream racism than to fix the god damn problem.

An I rest my case. Easier to label something troll, bury, and hope it goes away than debate it. Truth is truth no matter how you like it or don't like it.

There are more black male in prison, on parol, or waiting for trial. Easier to scream racism about this than to find out why this is.

Re:Racism is a cause, (3, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about a year ago | (#42790593)

Black males between the ages of 13 and 30 commit more crimes per race than any other race

How do you know this? The stats show higher arrest and conviction rates, which does not imply a higher commit rate.

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about a year ago | (#42790303)

Like 1 in 4 black men have been jailed at some point... Don't complain about the bail bond advertisements, complain that REALITY is still pretty racist.

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

travischristal (1645641) | about a year ago | (#42790457)

not an effect. Making use of stats is not racism. Racism is denying the fact that many blacks in the US have been disadvantaged and largely as a result are more likely to commit crimes and get arrested. Pretending the numbers don't exist is horrible.

How about more likely to get arrested, even if we control for which races commit more crimes...

Re:Racism is a cause, (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#42790583)

as a result are more likely to commit crimes and get arrested.

What I find interesting is people really believe that certain people commit more crimes. This misconception probably comes from the fact that people think everyone has an equal chance of being arrested.

This is not really the case. One of the people I knew in high school was a drug dealer. Never go arrested, even joined the military. He was white. Some of my upper class acquaintances would get into a lot of trouble, drugs, underage drinking, vandalism. More than likely they would be taken home and their parents would pay for any damages. OTOH, i recall one work mate who could at least once a week when he was walking to work would be stopped, interrogated, and searched because the cops had some report of a young black male doing something, so they just stopped every young black male. He was careful and never had anything on him, but if he every did you can be sure he would be arrested.

We also can see a difference in terms of the demographics of those who go and live on a college campus versus those who don't. We have all seen that colleges will make an effort to contain the damage of, say a rape. Therefore young adults who can go to college might have an advantage.

My black friends are stopped for things that I would never be stopped for. Arrests and convictions are really a function of who the cops are looking for, not who is committing crimes, and who the state attorneys think they can get a conviction. The police are not going to raid the country club where every is doing cocaine and everyone can afford expensive lawyers. They are going to the cheap apartments where they can get the people who don't have the means to defend themselves.

Racism is pretending that one race is more honest than the other, and can handle disadvantage more than the other. There are an awful lot of whites that are poor and uneducated, and do crime. It is just that the cops leave them alone.

I know this sounds a bit tin foil hate, but this is what I have observed over the years.

Re:Racism is a cause, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790655)

i wonder what the underlying psychological effects of being exposed to different ads subliminally are.

It's Not Stats, It's Racism (2)

reallocate (142797) | about a year ago | (#42790691)

Yes, its stats. That's not the point. The study illustrates the racism that is endemic in society. Not just the U.S., but in every human society.

When a business targets African-Americans by buying names associated with African-Americans, that's textbook racism. Why? Because it's making assumptions about individuals based on their membership in a group.

Ditto the self-serving argument that "Racism is denying the fact that many blacks in the US have been disadvantaged and largely as a result are more likely to commit crimes and get arrested". Applying perceived generalizations about a group to individuals you do not know is textbook racism.

Racism wasn't some passing phase of American history.

Not to sound insensitive (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790021)

But does anyone know what the most popular names associated with arrest rates happen to be? Maybe there's actual correlation there?
And I'm not saying that's correct either, since there is likely strong racial bias in many arrests made by officers themselves...

Re:Not to sound insensitive (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790359)

9/11. Never forget.

It's a shame that we as Americans would choose to elect a Muslim who is not even an American citizen to be our president. Send him and Onyango back to their native lands!

9/11. Never forget.

The terrorists haven't forgotten. That's how they got an Al Qaeda operative in the White House.

9/11. Never forget.

Now even computers are racist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790031)

Don't these twits know the ads are driven by heuristics based on who clicks on them?

But that wouldn't make a good headline, would it?

And? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790041)

And, on average, someone black in America is more likely to be arrested. Providing the right service to the right person, isn't that what targeted ads are about?

Maybe that tells you something... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790043)

Eh?

Racism gotten to the point (3, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | about a year ago | (#42790049)

Where people don't really understand what real racism actually is anymore.

Which I guess is a good thing? But, it makes people that try to bend anything to be racism as complete fools.

Re:Racism gotten to the point (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790279)

I don't think you know what real racism is. Racism is merely the behaviors, viewpoints etc that result from Racial Theory. Racial theory is the idea than mankind is divided into distinct races, much like species in the animal world. This psuedo-science was so prevalent at one point that journals were published detailing the physical distinctions between races. So essentially it is racist to believe in the concept of race all together. In fact Any prejudicial behavior stemming from this Racial theory, should be called prejudice based on Racial Theory.

Editors don't know what "racism" means (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790053)

Whoever greenlighted this story has no clue what "racism" means. Statistics =/= racism. These ads do not draw any conclusions about individuals, nor do they assume anything about an individual's intelligence/criminal record/anything else. They simply apply race-neutral algorithms that come up with certain results about what is MORE LIKELY to be true about an individual. Is it racist for advertisers to target BET viewers with commercials for black dating websites, historically black colleges, etc., based on the probability that they are interested in those things? Didn't think so.

Not Racism (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790055)

It's not racism if the ads were being generated purely on statistical models. It may be a sad reflection of the state of African-Americans, but unless you can show how people have manipulated the process for some reason, it's merely statistics.

Re:Not Racism (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790245)

It's not racism if the ads were being generated purely on statistical models. .. unless you can show how people have manipulated the process for some reason, it's merely statistics.

It's not even "direct" statistics of any sort
According to this [prisonpolicy.org], the incarceration rate for black people is over 5X that of white people (380 white, 966 Latino, 2,207 black per 100,000 people).

So the model is more complicated than "A black person is X% more likely to be in prison, so let's show them X% more prison-related ads"

Re:Not Racism (0)

frovingslosh (582462) | about a year ago | (#42790541)

Wish I had mod points today to mod the above up. Yea, 60 per cent versus 48 per cent doesn't sound nearly enough considering the greater likely hood that Trevon, Darnell and even Lakisha might want the services of a bail bondsman more so than Brendan. Obviously the people running ads are going to try to maximize the return on their advertising dollar. That isn't racist. They might even be black themselves (which does not mean to imply that blacks can't be racist, even though the liberals may make that claim).

Re:Not Racism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790683)

More to the point, while Laurie, Brendan, and Katie are all unlikely to commit crimes, what about Wayne, Brandi, and Tammy? It's not as though lower-class white names don't exist.

so? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790061)

It's not racists... it's targeted based on stats...

1/3 of 18-25 black males are in the system..., jail, probation, parole, etc.

ORRRR, stay with me here, Or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790095)

Perhaps those arrests tend to happen more often to those of the black race? (especially in America)
Possible Racism still, but not the fault of any advertisers.

And note the possible, since it could be entirely down to the fact that it might actually be black people who are generally causing more crime rather than some sort of targeting bias by police officers, that is often joked about in many shows all over the place.

Welp... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790101)

Probably because there are more arrest records with those names.

Take that as you will.

Statistical correlation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790103)

I am so sick of stuff like this. Admitting and recognizing that there are real statistical correlations between certain races and certain behaviors within particular regions does not make one racist. If there are real correlations for things like this, nothing is gained by pretending they don't exist. Racism is about making unfair assumptions about people, not about recognizing real, cultural differences, as nasty and taboo as they might be.

If we ever want to truly tackle racism, we need to first stop unfairly accusing people and computer algorithms of being racist. This kind of accusatory crap only makes the problem worse.

Re:Statistical correlation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790395)

"Cultural differences"? More likely to be genetics and not culture. After all they grew up here and still fail. They fail by our standards everywhere they exist in large numbers. Haiti = failure, sub-saharan Africa = failure, Detroit = failure... you get the idea. Africans simply don't have the intellectual horsepower to succeed the way we do. That's a fact.

It's not racist it's marketing 101 (3, Insightful)

wmbetts (1306001) | about a year ago | (#42790109)

If these keywords weren't generating revenue for the ad buyers they wouldn't bid on them. It's really that simple. Those names make money for marketers with those ads.

Re:It's not racist it's marketing 101 (2)

Dishwasha (125561) | about a year ago | (#42790281)

Yeah, Google doesn't really have anything to do with this. Advertisers are purchasing on certain keywords and then choosing what to display for those ads, not Google.

Re:It's not racist it's marketing 101 (1)

Dan East (318230) | about a year ago | (#42790461)

Thing is, this doesn't make much sense. If people are looking for a bondsman or legal advice, why would they enter their own name in the search terms? Or am I misunderstanding what this researcher was trying to correlate?

Re:It's not racist it's marketing 101 (1)

wmbetts (1306001) | about a year ago | (#42790575)

It's not I'm searching for a bondsman. It's more of I search for a name and oh look an ad. I need one of those *click*.

Re:It's not racist it's marketing 101 (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42790699)

Thing is, this doesn't make much sense. If people are looking for a bondsman or legal advice, why would they enter their own name in the search terms? Or am I misunderstanding what this researcher was trying to correlate?

Its social networking. Lets say hypothetically "Dan East" got arrested for internet trolling 5th degree on /. and his buddies started googling his name to read the cool news reports, read about how he plea bargained the charge down to involuntary rickrolling, etc etc. His buddies who like to keep track of him via google searches are probably into the same activities that he is, so its seemingly inevitable that people who google for "Dan" or "East" will more than average odds need a bail bondsman, defense lawyer, etc. Nothing personal just going for the LOLs and have a nice day (sincerely, really).

Re:It's not racist it's marketing 101 (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42790515)

The obvious question is what do you get when you google for ubuntu? Bail bondsmen? There's probably a cellphone jailbreaking joke lurking in here somewhere.

Now take it a step further and google for Hans Reiser. Think of the lives that could have been saved if only they googled for his name and found out he's a killer before he actually killed that chick. The almighty GOOG is a right outta minority report... I will say that naming a newborn "Hans Reiser" in 2013 is likely to result in issues.

Namism (3, Interesting)

Bigby (659157) | about a year ago | (#42790111)

This isn't racism; it is namism. Nowhere in the process is race ever part of the equation. If people named "Shaquille" are 5x more like to commit crimes, then that is a stereotype of the name "Shaquille"...a namist conclusion.

Our facination or eagerness to link things to skin color is really counterproductive and ignores the real issue. IMO, names bring about stereotypes moreso than skin color. It spans gender, language, and race. What would you think the first time you saw someone with the last name "Hitler"?

Re:Namism (2, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year ago | (#42790297)

If I act like a stereotype, should I be upset when people treat me like a stereotype? But certain cultures eschew normalization in favor of maintaining stereo types, because it is a defining feature.

Re:Namism (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about a year ago | (#42790595)

I agree completely. If a white couple were to name their child Trevon, Lakisha or Darnell, I would expect that child to grow up with a greater chance of earning a criminal record as well.

Re:Namism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790843)

This is a reaction to a culture where the members of that culture are far more likely to be criminals. The culture has common names, it just also happens that the members of this culture are the same race.

Stop googling yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790141)

Latanya Sweeney needs to stop googling herself and get a real job. The line between probability/correlation and socially acceptable is wide and blurry.

Re:Stop googling yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790287)

Yeah well, you know the imperative...publish or die.

They also discovered... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790155)

...that the ad software generated ads that included the word "mayonnaise" 68% vs. 26% for names identified as "white."

Something here is too stupid to tolerate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790161)

I haven't RTFA'd because my knee-jerk reaction applies here somewhere. "Racism in Online Ad Targeting" is either a completely stupid conclusion or yet another completely stupid slashdot headline that is going to make me just that much closer to never visiting this site again.

Are you out looking for racism because ads target "black-sounding" names ... with ads about being arrested? How about this: deal with the issue of blacks getting disproportionately arrested (here in the U.S.) and this "online racism" issue suddenly disappears. It's an Xmas fucking miracle!

Captcha: pigments

Professional resentment and all good it brings us (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790171)

Next they'll blame the ad networks of racism if advertisements for Hajj, Ramadan or halal are served when you search with name Mohammed. For some strange reason, it must be bad and evil. At least they should put minimum quotas of "arrest" advertisements for people suspected to be caucasian. It's so hard to be uptight and politically correct and not end up looking like an idiot.

Heuristics aren't racist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790181)

Well, it makes sense that arrest-related ads would accompany names like Tyrell or Darnell than names like Jacob or Joshua. The reasoning is clear - roughly 2% of the African-American population is incarcerated. That is twice the number of Latinos, and over 7 times percentage of whites. (http://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/raceinc.html) When a bail bondsman takes out an ad, algorithms will attempt to place that ad in front of someone most likely to click on the ad. Names are words, and thus subject heuristics rules. If it's racist, blame the previous people who Google searched for Tyrese, then clicked the defense attorney link.

Reality in politically incorrect (2, Interesting)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#42790193)

Pick a subject, any subject, the reality of that subject is politically incorrect to someone, somewhere. You are politically incorrect to your ancestors just as your descendants will condemn you for being politically incorrect. I say this and it doesn't matter who you, what your culture is, where you live, your religion (or lack of religion) what your values are, what your accomplishments are or any other given thing. History is politically incorrect and it will remain that way because that is human nature.l

Articles like this are rage mongering and professional trolling deserve to admonished. A little more tolerance by society would go a lot longer to ease race / religious / gender / etc relations that mongering articles like this ever will. It's why MLK was so popular and the like's of Jessie Jackson can never get past 3rd rate achievers. It's the difference between trolling for dollars and dreaming of tolerance.

/rant off

martin lootin coon was a worthless nigger (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790665)

stupid piece of shit nigger. Thank you James Earl Ray. Nice work on the baboon lipped nigger

Not racism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790209)

It's called statistics, correlation, or sometimes just "REALITY".

I doubt anyone in Google sat down and gamed the engine results to make a particular person look bad - the data is what the data is.

Identifying names (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790251)

I thought identifying names with race was racist.
Now that even university professors do it, I'm going to add all these names to my new racebias ad targeting filter.

How many people search for their own name? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790263)

If there is such racism, it's directed at who you're searching *for*, and the advertisers are making a big, unwarranted assumption if they assume that the names you search have anything to do with who you are. While the skew is interesting in the ad results, the same flaw apparently exists in the analysis in this article. There's no guarantee those names have anything to do with the "owner", so if the advertisers are doing it, they're dumb.

Hell, I may search for the name "K'Breel". If the advertiser foolishly serves up ads for gelsac polish, they're going to be sadly disappointed to learn I'm not Martian. Ad profiling is pretty inaccurate most of the time. And "up to 25%" bias? Doesn't seem all that strong anyway. I'm not even sure that's significant without some details of the sampling procedure.

Not racism (2)

markdavis (642305) | about a year ago | (#42790337)

This is not "racism". Racism is a belief that one race is superior to another and/or a hatred or intolerance of another race.

At most, this is prejudice.

Truth is not racist is objective (1)

mo0n_sniper (1143549) | about a year ago | (#42790343)

This is futile. If black identifying names are 25% more related to arrest then that is what they'll get in the ads. There is no racism there. We are trying to hide the truth by fear that we might seem racist.

Sounds like Bowfinger (4, Funny)

Dave Emami (237460) | about a year ago | (#42790351)

Kit: The letter K appears in this script 1,456 times. That's perfectly divisible by 3.
Freddy: So what? So what you saying?
Kit: What am I saying? KKK appears in this script 486 times!

So I went looking for statistics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790353)

To back up a false assumption that I had that the prison population in the US was heavily skewed towards black and minority inmates, which I can only presume came from things I've previously read, heard and perhaps (though I like to think I am not racist in any way, especially given that my mother and her ancestors are Burmese and came to the UK only in the 40's) a from an inherent racial bias I too have.

I am pleasantly surprised to find that actually [wikipedia.org] this is untrue. Whilst there is a slight tendency for male prisoners to be black, in the female prison population this is reversed and white female prisoners outnumber black.

Additionally (and I admit that I haven't read all the research paper), but given that Google also targets ads by location does anyone know how they catered for that in the study and didn't just make all the requests from the university campus? I'd be curious if this type of ad targeting occurred in a place where the prison statistics showed a large white majority committing crime.

Furthermore, it seems that some of the complaints about the adverts are not that they are just about arrests etc. but actually that they are about arrests and that they are for scam websites. I think this muddies the conclusions a little.

Re:So I went looking for statistics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790677)

You fucking retard. The link you posted says the exact opposite of what you're saying.

This claim doesn't make sense (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#42790379)

From TFA: "A more insidious explanation is that society as a whole is to blame. If Googleâ(TM)s Adsense service learns which ad combinations are more effective, it would first serve the arrest-related ads to all names at random. But this would change if it were to discover that click-throughs are more likely when these ads are served against a black-identifying name. In other words, the results merely reflect the discriminatory pattern of clicks from ordinary people."

Um... no. If "black sounding" names are discovered to be more likely to click through 'arrest ads', that's not the result of discrimination by "white sounding" clicks. No matter what I (with a "white sounding" name") click on, I can't make or influence a "black sounding" name to click on an 'arrest ad'. Self selection via clicks (sad as it is, and unquestionably driven by discrimination elsewhere in society) is not discrimination via clicks.

corellation, causation, confusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790381)

Did Google set ad-targeting to go after 'black names' or, for instance, the most-common names drawn from an arrest-interested database?

Rather than "raising questions as to whether Google's technology exposes racial bias", this raises the question why Latanya Sweeney is on the Harvard payroll.

Eye of the Beholder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790387)

It all depends on the interpretation. What does actually exist is nothing more than objective demographics, based on algorithms that even a dumb computer could implement, yet some will insist on calling it "racism."

In all likelihood, this woman is the beneficiary of racist policy, although some will insist on calling it "affirmative action."

I am not a statistician... (4, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year ago | (#42790439)

However, I have a keen proficiency when it comes to grasping the obvious. Black people make better running backs than white people. Asian's named Nguyen are more likely than white's named Cletus to get academic scholarships. At a Bar, an Hispanic male in his 20's is a much better percentage bet for party favors than a 50-something white woman. Should I be offended that Google singles me out for testosterone supplements?

No evidence, only assumptions (1)

phizi0n (1237812) | about a year ago | (#42790453)

This Harvard professor is assuming that people are being racist purposefully through adsense when she no real evidence to prove it.

I don't see any numbers to prove whether her percentages are even statistically significant or not.

Even if her results are correct, anyone even remotely familiar with google adsense would come to the more likely conclusion that the content of web pages reflect that people with those names are more likely to have been arrested. Almost all of the keyword combinations people use in adsense are ones recommended by adsense based on a few seeded keywords and adsense generates those recommendations automatically based on the content of the internet.

mod do3n (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790529)

gains market shaRe ones in software

this is not racism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790667)

so what? statistically, minorities commit the most crimes, so this is the correct move on the advertisers' parts. their goal is to deliver relevant ads. nothing racist about that.

does the unfair system put minorities at a disadvantage, leading to more crime? definitely. that's not relevant to this story though.

This study is racist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790687)

I think the study itself is totally racist. How dare they assume that just because someone's name is Lakisha or Darnell, they're black?

What's the difference... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42790823)

...between Batman and a nigger?

A: Batman can go out at night without robbin' (Robin)

It's funny! Laugh!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...