TheNextWeb reported that Facebook lets you search for photos of your female friends, but not your male ones, which is creepy enough. However, when we went to verify that, we found something even creepier— Facebook autosuggested that we look at photos of female friends in bikinis. Um, that would be a big no thank you, Facebook. I got what are presumably male dogs and two male-themed cartoons, including one cautioning men against peeing outdoors in the polar vortex—none of which were posted by friends or pages I follow. When I bravely clicked on the search to see photos of my female friends in bikinis, I was pleased to see that none of my relatives or work acquaintances had posted photos of themselves in bikinis.
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A ‘Sexist’ Search Bug Says More About Us Than Facebook
But those search results are not the product of sexist engineers. Facebook search is governed in part by an algorithm, which favors the most popular queries over those made less often. Algorithms can be biased and they can mirror prejudices that already exist in society. In this case, it turns out people are significantly more interested in using Facebook to find pictures of women in bathing suits than they are in finding pictures of men—and the algorithm reflects that.
Suggestions auto populate in the search bar based on popular and recent searches on Facebook, meaning enough people had searched for that term for it to appear as the top suggestion. A spokesperson for Facebook said the tech giant is working to fix the issue but at the time of writing the controversial search suggestions were still appearing. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.