Google removes autocomplete suggestions about Jews, women

The search giant will no longer suggest you search whether these groups are "evil."

Laura Hautala Former Senior Writer
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Laura Hautala
2 min read

Google suggests the word "bad" to complete a search query that starts, "Are Muslims..." The company took down two other autocomplete suggestions on Friday but left this one as is.

Screenshot by Laura Hautala/CNET

If you have a burning desire to ask two specific questions in a Google search, you'll have to type them all the way out.

Google on Friday removed autocomplete suggestions from its search engine that suggested the word "evil" at the end of these two phrases: "Are Jews..." and "Are women..." It left in place, however, the suggestion of "bad" when users type in "Are Muslims..."

Google confirmed to the Guardian and the Telegraph that it removed the autocomplete suggestions from the search engine, and typing the phrases into Google now yields different suggestions altogether.

The autocomplete feature is Google's way of finishing your sentences, guessing what you want to search for. A company representative said the suggestions are created with an algorithm and are based on the users' interests and search history.

Google has deleted autocomplete suggestions in the past, including when a court ordered it to stop suggesting the word "torrent" after the names of popular recording artists. Google removes autocomplete suggestions that include hate speech or sexually explicit or abusive language or that run afoul of the law, according to its policies.

A Google representative said that 15 percent of searches in a given day are brand new, and that searches include a huge range of topics. "Because of this, terms that appear in Autocomplete may be unexpected or unpleasant," the representative said. "We do our best to prevent offensive terms, like porn and hate speech, from appearing, but we acknowledge that autocomplete isn't an exact science and we're always working to improve our algorithms."

Sometimes Google's suggestions are wacky or telling, like "Is Tacoma...a city?" (Answer: um... yes.) But the searches pondering the evilness of Jews and women led to search results that were -- not surprisingly -- anti-semitic and misogynistic.

One of the top hits for "Are women evil" leads to a post on a bodybuilding forum about how women are all indeed evil, "In that they're only there until somebody comes and takes them from you or for as long as you have the resources to keep them."

And for the query about Jews, the results are slightly more mixed. They include both a result from white nationalist website Stormfront saying Jews have inherited traits that lead them into usury and "a loathing for 'productive labor,'" and an article from Jewish magazine Tablet pondering why Jews are "increasingly unwelcome in the 21st century."

Updated 1:33 p.m. PT with a comment from Google.