Powerful UN Women ads reveal horrifying sexism in Google autocomplete


This story first appeared on Mashable

Have you ever tried typing "women should," "women shouldn't" or "women can't" into Google? The autocomplete suggestions you get may surprise and horrify you, as a new series of ads from UN Women makes abundantly clear.

Google autocomplete is a feature that suggests what your search term might be, based on its most frequent searches and the content of web pages. It is, in many ways, a neutral reflection of society. These ads feature genuine top-line results, such as "women shouldn't have rights; women shouldn't vote; women shouldn't work."


The autocomplete algorithm is constantly being tweaked; the ad specifies that the searches were performed on Sept. 9, 2013. So when we tried to replicate the results, we got slightly different — but no better — outcomes, such as "women shouldn't go to college," "women need to shut up" and "women should not speak in church."

For anyone who thought the Internet was a more enlightened place than the world at large, or that sexism was less of a problem in the 21st century, the ads are quite the wake up call. In each of four posters, autocomplete results are placed over the mouth of a woman as if to silence her.

The organisation also offers what, in an ideal world, the autocomplete result should be — such as "women need to be seen as equal." UN Women is a three year-old entity aimed at achieving gender equality around the world; it merges the work of four previous United Nations groups.

And in case you're wondering, the autocomplete results for "men should" and "men can't" are fairly prescriptive — "men should pray" — but not nearly as stereotyping. Except for "men can't be feminists" — which, we hope, is just as wrong as the results above.