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Google changes its anti-Semitic autocomplete suggestions

Google made a change to its autocomplete feature so that it no longer suggests the phrase “are Jews evil” when a user starts a search with the words “are Jews,” The Guardian reports.

The tech giant also removed the suggested phrase “are women evil” from searches beginning with “are women.” 

“We took action within hours of being notified on Friday of the autocomplete results,” Google said, The Guardian reported. 

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Autocomplete suggestions for the words “are Jews” on Dec. 5, 2016. CBS News
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An autocomplete suggestion for the words “are women” on Dec. 5, 2016. CBS News

No change was made, however, for searches starting with “are Muslims.” The phrase continued to return the word “bad,” despite a lengthy article in the Guardian over the weekend that explored the influence of right wing sites on search results, including the three autocomplete suggestions mentioned.

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Autocomplete suggestions when typing “are Muslims” into Google’s search box on Dec. 5, 2016. CBS News

Google didn’t say why only some changes were made to the tool, which offers users suggested phrases when typing words into Chrome’s search bar or Google’s search box.

“Our search results are a reflection of the content across the web,” a Google spokesperson said, according to The Guardian. “This means that sometimes unpleasant portrayals of sensitive subject matter online can affect what search results appear for a given query. These results don’t reflect Google’s own opinions or beliefs - as a company, we strongly value a diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures.”

The company said autocomplete predictions are generated algorithmically, based on the interests and search activity of users. 

“Because of this, terms that appear in autocomplete may be unexpected or unpleasant,” Google said, according to The Guardian. “We do our best to prevent offensive terms, like porn and hate speech, from appearing, but we acknowledge that autocomplete isn’t an exact science and we’re always working to improve our algorithms.”

It also appeared on Monday that Google removed the suggested phrase “are women equal to men.” The phrase no longer turned up in suggested Google search results after being captured in a screenshot by the Guardian.

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