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.”