On June 6, Kabir Alli, an 18-year old in Virginia, posted a brief video of himself running a couple of quick Google image searches. First he searched for "three black teenagers" and was met with several rows of decontextualized mugshots. Then he searched for "three white teenagers" and was served up stock photos of relaxed teens hanging out in front of various plain white backgrounds. The tweet has stirred controversy, with many people accusing Google of being racist. But is that the case? Alli says that while it's Google's fault in some sense as they should have better control over the things people see, he also believes that at the end of the day, what Google shows us is a reflection of what people think. A Google spokesperson had similar things to say. Our image search results are a reflection of content from across the web, including the frequency with which types of images appear and the way they're described online. This means that sometimes unpleasant portrayals of sensitive subject matter online can affect what image search results appear for a given query. These results don't reflect Google's own opinions or beliefs -- as a company, we strongly value a diversity of perspectives, ideas and cultures.
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