Online question auto-finish system assumes sexual preference questions
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/18/2012 -- Some questions are best left to friends and family, while other questions are find for therapists; then there are the questions that one may simply ask the vast community of anonymity that is the internet.
Search engines have provided topics of interest and questions from many for quite some time. Now, Google and Bing are attempting to find what questions are most frequently asked in order to give all a chance to see what others ask.
Some frequently asked questions (as silly as they seem, and certainly are) include: When ill the world end? Is Neil Armstrong Muslim? Was George Washington gay?
The questions come direct from the feature that Google calls “autocomplete”, Microsoft denotes it as “autosuggest”. The function is meant to anticipate your question based on other persons' questions. Typing in the questions starting with “is” or “was” and the service will finish what you started.
Those who study online behavior state that the autocomplete helps reveal broad patterns, and trend toward sensitive or the politically incorrect.
Your search engine is your best friend, and you talk to it about everything, even things you might not talk about to your real best friends," said Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, a website that covers the search industry. "It's a way that search engines reflect society."
One of the most common questions that crops up with a puzzling amount of frequency on autocorrect was the questioning of particular persons' sexual identity.
Is Elton John gay? Is Paul Ryan gay? Is Michael Bloomberg gay? The question pops up often when starting searches about George Clooney, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, actress Ellen Page, Genghis Khan, several cartoon characters as well as the pope.
The questioning of sexuality is so vary common, that simply placing the word “is” will often cause autocorrect assume the question is geared toward sexual preference (specifically of Frank Ocean).
For Bing, it is the same type of question but with Robin Williams instead of Mr. Ocean.
Nick In't Ven, who works as a senior program manager for Microsoft's Bing, stated that the collective curiosities of users is reflected by the results. It is also admitted that the sexual preference curiosity may be nothing more than a bug.
"We base it on experience, what users have asked about around the world," In't Ven said. "We're trying to reflect the world's collective intentions." If people wonder whether other people are gay, "that is the collective intention, and we abide with it."
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