The need to be recognized in one’s own language has been a part of the LGBTQ+ agenda for a while now. So when your search engine leads to stereotypical LGBTQ+ sites that shatter that cause, the community comes together.
Google has tweaked its algorithm for the region of France for search results related to the term ‘lesbienne’. Now, it will produce more informative content rather than pornographic results.
Google has become a staple in everyday life. The business is one of the most powerful search engine giants in the world. However, the search engine isn’t without flaws. In France, Google searches for the term ‘lesbeinne’, which is french for lesbian, showed results that featured pornographic content before informative or educational data. However, this was not the case with other search terms such as queer, gay or even transgender. What was also observed was that such results only showed-up for the french term ‘lesbienne’ and not for the English term ‘lesbian’ itself.
In June, Google had hosted a special Pride banner in memory of Stonewall on the search engine. The organisation has always been pro-pride. And, has taking part in numerous Pride parades around the world. However, the Pride month tribute by the tech giant came with problems that could not be ignored.
French news site Numerana started an investigation after they saw pornographic results appear beneath the banner for ‘lesbienne’ searches. Later, Numerana also found that Google removed it’s banner for ‘lesbienne’ searches but not any other LGBTQ french terms. The search engine, reportedly, wouldn’t provide an explanation for the action.
What else is happening in Europe? Gay Farmer axing through the LGBTQ+ stereotypes in Agriculture
Google needs to rectify the problem
First few results for the term ‘lesbienne’, showed content, including videos, and images, that sexualised the bodies of lesbians. According to Pink News, such ‘unnecessary sexualisation’ is the reason for homophobic abuse that lesbians experience. One such example is the recent attack on a lesbian couple on a London Bus. Furthermore, such content only furthers the culture of over-sexualising and treating lesbians as ‘mere entertainment’.
Campaigns led by Numerama and twitter account @SEO_lesbienne brought this issue to light. On a later date, Numerama questioned Google about the removal of the lesbian term. Pandu Nayak, Vice president of Search Engine Quality from Google commented,
“I find that these [search] results are terrible, there is no doubt about it. [He continued] We are aware that there are problems like this, in many languages and different researches. We have developed algorithms to improve this research, one after the other.”
-As reported by Pink News
Nayak, also noted that searches for terms ‘teen’ and ‘school girl’ were used and exploited by pornographic companies to show their content. Such terms could have innocent interpretations but instead showed explicit results. However, now it has been corrected to show more ‘safe-for-work results’.
“We have taken measures in cases where, when there is a reason for the word to be interpreted in a non-pornographic way, that interpretation is put forward.”
-As reported by The Next Web
Google tweaks its algorithm
The campaign #SEOlesbienne led by both @SEO_lesbienne and Numerama didn’t take long to yield results. On July 18th, they reported that the tech giant finally corrected their algorithm. Now searches on the term ‘lesbienne’ yields results that are similar to other french LGBTQ terms.
@SEO_lesbienne took to twitter to celebrate the victory. They wrote “We Won”, noting that now the searches for the term produced “non-pornographic content”.
🙌 On a une GRANDE nouvelle à vous annoncer 👉 quand on tape le mot #lesbienne dans le moteur de recherche @GoogleFR : on a désormais accès à du contenu non pornographique. 👊 ON A GAGNÉ 🎉 #SEOlesbienne pic.twitter.com/8gH9vpgCpZ
— #SEOlesbienne (@SEO_lesbienne) July 18, 2019
As of July 2019, top searches for the french term ‘lesbienne’ is the lesbian Wikipedia page and news articles. Google has also ensured that these results appear even if the Safe Search feature is not active.
The Tech Giant comments on the ‘lesbienne’ problem:
Google confirmed with Pink news that they have created an algorithmic improvement that changes the results show for the search term ‘lesbienne’.
“We work hard to prevent potentially shocking or offensive content from rising high in search results if users are not explicitly seeking that content.”
-As reported by Pink News
A spokesperson from Google told Gizmodo that the tech giant,
“developed an algorithmic solution so that we can deliver high-quality results not just for that query, but entire classes of queries.”
-As reported by Gizmodo
This meant that the changes have not only had an impact on searches for ‘lesbienne’ but for a wider range of search queries. However, the spokesperson also mentioned that the problem and fix were unique to the French term and not the English term ‘lesbian’.
Over the past year, Google has made more than 3,200 improvements to its search engine for various reasons. One of the issues was that its systems aren’t operating as planned.
Also Read: Teaching Underprivileged Kids about LGBTQ
Source Credit: Gizmodo, Metro Weekly, Pink News, The Next Web