1707992469 The sexism of Google Wikipedia… and IMDB

The sexism of Google, Wikipedia… and IMDB

Google is actually sexist, according to a new American analysis of more than a million images. Wikipedia doesn't fare any better when it comes to professional stereotypes… and neither does the film encyclopedia IMDB.

Published yesterday at 4:44 p.m.


The Harry Potter effect

In recent years, several studies have argued that the Internet perpetuates sexist stereotypes. But Douglas Guilbeault, an Ontario sociologist who works at the University of California at Berkeley, believes he has definitively highlighted the problem. Using a million images from Google and Wikipedia searches, he showed in Nature on February 13th that the representation of 3,500 trades and professions is based on stereotypes. “It's particularly worrying because the images remain ingrained in the memory,” he said in an interview. For example, maybe you imagined Harry Potter in many ways while reading his book, but after watching the films, you think of Daniel Radcliffe. »

The sexism of Google Wikipedia… and IMDB

The stars

The Nature study says that the depiction of stars is also sexist. “On IMDB (Editor’s Note Internet Movie Database) and Wikipedia, more than 70% of people identified as celebrities are men,” says Mr. Guilbeault. In politics this is understandable, but in cinema and television it is still surprising given the number of actresses. This shows that stereotypes that promote masculine characteristics influence fame. » This sexism among stars could explain why actors are paid more than actresses, even if there are more actresses than actors, the researcher said.


The sexism of Google Wikipedia… and IMDB


Douglas Guilbeault, author of the study

Mr. Guilbeault also compared images from Google and Wikipedia with American census data. The images turn out to be more gender specific than reality. For example, when searching for a more masculine job or occupation, the results show even more images of men than in reality. The discrepancy between image search and census statistics is about 10%. But in some cases, Google reflects reality well or is a little less gender biased. “We need to think about the possibility of search engines playing a role in improving parity and inclusion, not just reflecting stereotypes,” says Guilbeault.

The neutrality of language

The researchers also analyzed the proportion of men and women in the descriptions of jobs and occupations. Here, Google and Wikipedia are not sexist – even less so than census data. Is it because of campaigns to promote epicene language? “No, because the impact of these campaigns on internet content is still small. This is due to the neutrality of the language. Sometimes we don't know whether it is a man or a woman. For many terms there is no different version depending on gender. »

From one country to another

On the other hand, text searches may be more sexist in more gendered languages, such as Latin languages. For example, “Electrician” is invariant in English, but in French we can say “lectricienne.” “There was a study two years ago that showed searches on Google were more gender biased in more sexist countries,” says Guilbeault. This study was published in PNAS and was based on the World Economic Forum's gender equality scores.