Gendered Algorithms

Kimberly Chapman finds that when she changes her Google+ Profile to male, she gets more technical and important stories being fed through Google+’s What’s Hot algorithm than she usually gets when her profile is set to woman. As a woman, she gets stories about kids, weight loss and “graphical platitudes” such as “I don’t need a perfect one, I just need someone who can make me feel that I am the only one.” As a male she sees no platitudes, but instead gets stories about technology and “nerd” posts that actually match her interests.

One of the reason I’m on Google+ (and I know many others too) is because I want to have a dedicated social media feed for science that isn’t diluted. And guess what? Scientists are not just stereotypical cisgender men, but we are also cisgender women and transgender people. Google+ needs a lesson on gender stereotypes.

Kimberly writes:

I noted the URLs of the top listed 12 posts from my female and male WH versions, and vaguely categorised them by type.   The difference is astounding… I get that WH algorithms are based on what people click, like, share, comment on, etc.  Fine.  But I challenge anyone to give me one good reason why there should be such a drastic difference in less than ten seconds by simply changing my gender, other than institutionalised sexism about what girls and guys apparently like.

First published on Science on Google+