Google's Autocomplete function reveals widespread sexism in a new ad campaign by United Nations Women. The ads feature women’s faces with real searches over their mouths, in which phrases like “women need to,” “women should,” and “women cannot” are autocompleted by shocking bigotry, including “women should be slaves,” “women cannot be trusted,” and “women need to be controlled.”

The fine print in each ad says "Actual Google search on 09/03/13." These searches were done in Dubai, but some of the same results turn up in the U.S.

The ads also offer alternative, feminist statements below each search, like “women shouldn’t suffer from discrimination anymore” and “women cannot accept the way things are.”

Christopher Hunt, art director for Ogilvy and Mather Dubai, created the campaign.

Co.Design

Ad Campaign Reveals Rampant Sexism Through Google Autocomplete

Turns out, our collective Internet psychology has a lot of disturbing ideas about what "women are."

Google Autocomplete is a democratic function: The suggestions that pop up are the world’s most popular searches that include the words you’ve typed, which can offer a weird window into collective Internet psychology. “Dogs are” is autocompleted by “…people too,” “…awesome,” and “…family.” Cats, on the other hand, “are jerks” and “are evil.” Usually, the results are sort of funny and mostly inconsequential.

But autocomplete gets disturbing in a new ad campaign by United Nations Women, where it’s used to reveal widespread sexism.

The ads, created by Ogilvy and Mather Dubai's Christopher Hunt, feature women’s faces with real Google searches over their mouths, in which phrases like “women need to,” “women should,” and “women cannot” are autocompleted by shocking bigotry, including “women should be slaves,” “women cannot be trusted,” and “women need to be controlled.” The fine print in each ad says "Actual Google search on 09/03/13." These searches were done in Dubai, but some of the same results turn up in the U.S. The ads also offer alternative, feminist statements below each search, like “women shouldn’t suffer from discrimination anymore” and “women cannot accept the way things are.”

What happens if you flip the premise around? The results are similarly troubling. “Men should be allowed to hit women,” according to autocomplete's suggestions. Men also need to “...cheat,” “...ejaculate,” and “...grow up.” Then there's the biologically misinformed: “Men can…" is completed with "lactate" and "breastfeed."

U.S. searches do have some nice things to say to ladies: "Women will..." is completed with "rule the world." And then autocomplete offers as a second thought--maybe they will "rule Tumblr."

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11 Comments

  • Objectivity

    Interesting, but that's about all that is proven. What if these searches are done by those looking for articles about this matter? Perhaps just by trying to find sexism, they are "creating" it. I'm not saying it either is or is not, but we really need better journalism than just mass following of organizations with agendas, don't we? Don't we? *crickets* (guess not)

  • retracted

    Great observation. Worth noting that I tried all those searches and didn't get half of those suggestions also.

  • andyshawshank

    You're not alone, ladies. According to Google:

    Men have to pee all the time
    White people have no soul (or lips)
    Midgets can see in the dark
    Spiderman is a jerk

  • RollForward

    This may vary by country, but when I type "men cannot," it is auto completed with "be feminists" and "get HIV from women." "Men need to" is completed with "be needed" and "cheat." Not exactly the same.

  • retracted

    It works the other way too. I did all of the searches pictured and didn't get half of those suggestions. "Women need to... feel secure" or "be told they are beautiful." But again, they obviously seem to vary by region as well.

  • Objectivity

    Still stereotypical crap. You may say sexism in one direction an "Yep, that about sums it up" in the other. Either way, it's what you choose to believe.

  • adstiles

    Aren't each of these autocompletes just as likely the result of students researching negative stereotypes of women, people campaigning against sexism, etc? Does a given search prove the searcher's sexism any more than it proves that they're a feminist?

  • Guest

    The ad is just a mechanism to raise awareness of mistreatment toward women.

  • Will Ryan

    Yeah this seems like a pretty arbitrary campaign. Not to mention a lot of these just aren't practical and don't necessarily reflect the beliefs of the person searching. "Women need to be put in their place." "Men need to ejaculate." What does that mean? Why would someone seriously, legitimately search that? What kind of results are they hoping to find? If you were seriously searching for stuff like that you'd probably be searching "how to put a woman in her place" or "how to discipline my girlfriend."

  • Objectivity

    It means that is what people are searching to "prove" their points. Then the search itself becomes a tool of their "proof." It's just politics and special interest trying to prove their position with potentially manufactured "facts" that sound believable to those who don't think around what is sold to them. If you can be a "victim" it can sell to gain power and privilege. But on the negative side, it obscures the true victims that need help... but what does special interest care? It's not the point they are trying to achieve.