Google Translate has been criticized for “sexist” algorithms, which associated nurses and cooks with women and engineers with men.
In an article, Mashable revealed that gender-neutral Turkish translations were automatically converted to male or female pronouns depending on the job.
Turkish is a gender neutral language. There is no "he" or "she" – everything is just "o". But look what happens when Google translates to English. Thread: pic.twitter.com/mIWjP4E6xw
— Alex Shams (@seyyedreza) November 27, 2017
The algorithm associated cooks, nurses, and teachers with women, while engineers, doctors, soldiers, secretaries, and cleaners were associated with men.
Being happy and hard-working were also traits associated with men, while women were associated with being unhappy and lazy.
Translations in Finnish also reportedly defaulted to male pronouns.
Look,how @Google Translate does #sexism! #Finnish has a gender neutral third-person pronoun. But Google decides, if a job title is good to go with the male or the female English third-person pronoun. Idea: @seyyedreza in #Turkishpic.twitter.com/jU9Su0JXd5
— Taika Dahlbom (@TaikaDahlbom) November 28, 2017
“While the exact specifics of what’s happening behind the scenes are obscured to outsiders, a general understanding does exist. It all comes back to those algorithms that drive machine learning-powered services across the web,” Mashable explained. “Essentially, when an untold number of biases (gender or otherwise) exist in our literature and language — biases, like, that nurses are inherently women or engineers are bound to be men — these can seep through into Google Translate’s output.”
Google has been repeatedly criticized over its algorithms, which one report claimed had been killing its platform YouTube.
Last week, the company was criticized after its algorithms displayed a “distasteful” survey about children on an article about child sex abuse.
The survey, which was featured on a Gazette Live article about child sex abuse through Google Surveys, asked readers, “Which child do you like the best?” before providing several pictures of young children to choose.
Readers were made to complete the survey before being able to read the article on child sex abuse cases.
In October, a report claimed that investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election could force Google and other companies to reveal their algorithm secrets.