Google Search thinks "gayest" and "worst" are the same thing

The complexities of creating and developing a search engine that provides the most appropriate and relevant results for an enquiry are often taken for granted when we enter a couple of vague terms and expect instantaneous answers to impossibly complicated questions. Earlier this month, Microsoft gave Neowin an insight into its work in developing Bing, and its efforts into anticipating what users are searching for.

Bing recently claimed in TV ads that it "can do anything better" than Google, and in one aspect at least, that appears to be the case. Google Search has picked up an unusual habit, in equating the word "gayest" with "worst" in its search results. 

Search for "gayest apps", and the top results returned discount any interpretation of the word "gayest" in reference to homosexuality, or even happiness, assuming instead that you were searching for the worst apps out there. BuzzFeed highlighted other examples, including searches for the "gayest trends" or the "gayest Disney movies", which similarly interpreted the term in its pejorative sense. 

This isn't a new phenomenon; it seems that Google's been spitting out results like this for at least the last couple of years. Google itself doesn't view this as a problem, but rather a symptom of the way that people conduct searches online. As people have increasingly used 'gay' as a disparaging term to describe something in a negative way, Google Search has reacted accordingly. In a statement to BuzzFeed, a Google spokesperson said: 

Google's results, including where a search term is synonymized with another, are a reflection of content on the web and how people search. These results are determined by algorithms and we don't manually correct this process, but we are always looking at how we can improve our algorithms."

So don't expect this to change any time soon. It's also worth noting that searching for "gayest apps" on Bing includes "The 15 Worst iPhone Apps" at number 5 on its results - so while Bing isn't quite so negative when it comes to interpreting the word "gayest", it wouldn't be fair to say that it's an issue that's exclusive to Google.

Still, as Huffington Post observed, Google's search algorithms don't discriminate when it comes to dishing out results that some might view as inappropriate. During the 2012 US Presidential race, Google users searching for "Santorum" found that the first result didn't take them to Rick Santorum's campaign homepage, but rather to another website entirely, which defined his surname as "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex", with a photo of the former senator below.

Source: BuzzFeed

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Isn't this like when people call something "wicked" but means good?

" oh that film was wicked " is the same as saying "of that film is awesome?"

Searching wickedest apps could then potentially returns the best apps?

This happens because people by far most often use "gayest" in the meaning of "worst", and then algorithms at Google equate the two.

People are so dumb or intentionally oblivious. With how much homophobia and prejudice there is, you can't justify using gay in a negative connotation as meaning something different. People call something they don't like gay because to them being gay is stupid or inferior.

There is NEVER going to be a justification for it. That's not being politically correct. It's called not being an asshat, developing your vocabulary beyond textspeak, and treating people as people.

The thing here is that Google is not trying to offend anyone. It is merely reporting the information around it, positive or negative. Imagine if Google censored information about the holocaust because some people are offended by it. Google is not here to moderate what I search. What I search is my business. Its responsibility is to interpret my search to the best of its ability and return relevant information.

How about you just ignore it and toughen up a little. Do I get to chastise blacks when getting called "White boy", oh God no, but If I call them a << racial epithet >>, it's the end of the world. I'm not investing any energy into worrying about every little word that might offend people, frankly it's their problem anyway.

Digit12345 said,
The thing here is that Google is not trying to offend anyone.

My response wasn't to Google. It just pulls up results based on user input. It's to people that think it isn't a big deal. It's more of a WTF response to people thinking that negatively referring to stuff as gay is a giant coincidence.

How about you just ignore it and toughen up a little. Do I get to chastise blacks when getting called "White boy", oh God no, but If I call them a << racial epithet >>, it's the end of the world. I'm not investing any energy into worrying about every little word that might offend people, frankly it's their problem anyway.

If the word white was associated with anything negative, you might have a point. As it is now, the discussion went way over your head.

Honestly, the word gay keeps on changing over and over again. Homosexuals might look at this and disapprove, but in reality gay has changed to this derivative.

First it was happy, then it was a slang for homosexuals, now its widely used as a light word to describe something off/stupid/bad or in other words "worst".

Google search isn't stupid guys, it gets its information from us users.

In this post: lots of people not understanding how the search engine is built to include what are regarded, through indexing, as synonymous terms. Whether you "like it" or not isn't really relevant.

Eg: https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=~fitness

Notice how it doesn't just highlight fitness but related words such as weight, health, sports?

It's merely doing the same thing with "gayest"

AWKM said,
In this post: lots of people not understanding how the search engine is built to include what are regarded, through indexing, as synonymous terms. Whether you "like it" or not isn't really relevant.

Eg: https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=~fitness

Notice how it doesn't just highlight fitness but related words such as weight, health, sports?

It's merely doing the same thing with "gayest"

Being a member of the LGBT community I can see how it can be taken out of context - but yet again, I also see the word "JEW (as in being a tight-wad, etc.,)", and the ever controversial "N-WORD" are "NO GO AREAS" in general - it's about time the word "GAY/GAYEST" had the same privilege - I'm gay and I'm also Jewish - I would really hit the trifecta if I was also black - things need to change - No "ifs, no maybe's" - as I say ... "Enough already, already ... he should meet my mother" ;-)

Bring a black homosexual male into your bedroom. You can hit the so-called "negative" trifecta by proxy.

As far as the word "Gay" is concerned. The word did not mean homosexual until recent years. So what that the word is used in a different way today. I use the word the correct way. As in,I am a heterosexual man in a gay relationship with my girlfriend. Does that bother you how I used it?

If one were to say the NY Mets are a gay team, why does that bother you? You are giving that word power by being bothered by it.

The term Geek is a word that can be used in a negative way. I may not have a pocket protector, weigh 90 pounds and wear glasses who lives in his mother's basement reading comic books, but I still call myself a geek and when others do, it doesn't bother me.

That term has been used for ages. On the football team: that's the gayest move I've seen. On the basketball team: that was the gayest dunk I've ever seen.

When these things were said, it had nothing to do with sexual preference. Now you can't say anything because it may hurt a gay person. Unbelievable! This is almost as bad as that 18 year old girl who wants to get off scotch free for underage sex with a 14 year old because she's gay and she's a woman.

68k said,
How is rubbish like this front page news?

Umm this is Neowin. Pro Microsoft and Anti-Google articles are their specialty. Just laugh and move along.

Uhh, how is this an issue with Google's algorithm? If anything, the algorithm is so smart, it gives back the results that are most likely to be relevant to the context of the search terms. I'd like my results to not be censored/gimped by political correctness. I'm gay and I could care less.

You should care you being discriminated against, its just like a black person not minding being enslaved/joked about stand up for you damin RIGHTS man! You deserve respect, im a Hetro and care more about gay rights than you man.

You COULD care less? Or you COULDNT care less? On a scale of 1-10 of caring, say you're at 1, you couldn't care less, you could care more, but you couldn't care less. Say we upped you to a 2, than you could care less.

"I could care less" is useless as a gauge of how much you care, because all it shows us is that you do care, at least a little bit.

Sylar0 said,
You should care you being discriminated against, its just like a black person not minding being enslaved/joked about stand up for you damin RIGHTS man! You deserve respect, im a Hetro and care more about gay rights than you man.

People discriminate against people. Google's algorithm is impartial...

McKay said,
You COULD care less? Or you COULDNT care less? On a scale of 1-10 of caring, say you're at 1, you couldn't care less, you could care more, but you couldn't care less. Say we upped you to a 2, than you could care less.

Ok ok, slip of the tongue.

Speak English man my head hurts! I couldn't care more about rights for everyone if they can take homosexual peoples respect they can take my respect.

Hmm? How am I not speaking English? I feel you are heavily misunderstanding me here. I do care if people discriminate against others. That is wrong. What is not wrong is for Google to represent the situation like it is. The job of the search engine is to be accurate and impartial, not politically correct. The term "gayest" is almost synonymous with "worst" in terms of use and should be treated as such by the algorithm. When people will stop using it in that context, then the search results will reflect that change. How in the world is this discriminatory behavior?

Nope biased, do you also use the term "to Jew" I certainly don't know anyone who does, I hope you don't. Think about that.

Sylar0 said,
Nope biased, do you also use the term "to Jew" I certainly don't know anyone who does, I hope you don't. Think about that.

Wise up.

I've known gay people themselves to say "thats gay" in relation to something bad.

Key point: people taking themselves too seriously.

Sylar0 said,
You wise up about homophobia!

Too busy laughing at you arguing with the self described gay person below for not being offended enough.

Dismal.

10 years ago, you could say gayest,and no one would even flinch. if you say that today, you'll get ridiculed and forced to make an apology,lose your job,get kicked out of social clubs,etc...

10 years ago, someone could say "gayest" in a disparaging way, and they were wrong and disrespectful. If someone says that today, they are still wrong and disrespectful, and they get called out on it too.

Shadowzz said,
This political correctness everywhere is getting silly.

This people getting defensive about wanting to use words to be a jerk is getting silly.

Here is the true definition of gay
Definition of GAY
1
a : happily excited : merry <in a gay mood>
b : keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits <a bird's gay spring song>

There is no proper definition, and you shouldn't seek to change its use. Language evolves and is defined by use - not by dictionaries.

In slang it is used to describe something in a negative way so the urban dictionary has a #3 for you...

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gay


3. often used to describe something stupid or unfortunate. originating from homophobia. quite preferable among many teenage males in order to buff up their "masculinity"
...
3. "Man, these seats are gay. I can't even see what's going on!"

Dear god is this an Americanism, in the UK gay used me mean "happy" and later "homosexual" I have never heard of it used as anything else expect by childish people as an insult.

What part of the UK are you in? When I was in School, gay has begun to mean "weak, annoying".

If you want your friends to do something and they decline (Go out for drinks etc) then the default answer is "Don't be gay".

If someone is struggling to push/lift something heavy they will be accused of being "gay".

The word is simply beginning to change meaning in my generation.

That was my point only childish school kids use it, I can't believe you saying where you live adults use it. What's next don't be herto don't be Black?

If people grew up with a word that was slowly changing meaning, they're likely to continue using it. I still use it to mean "weak or annoying". So do my friends and the people I work with.

People in the US use gay as meaning stupid, idiot, moronic....so not surprised search results are showing the same thing.

Of course, they also use it as happy and a term for homosexuals.

The broader meaning of the insult is not simply stupid or moronic, but specifically "fruity". Like, why are you wearing that? -- its "gay" (fruity).

Yea and obviously there's a connection with a perception of a affect people also associate with gay men.

Although the connection is also with the other meanings of the word too, think "gay apparel" and the joke about that on Family Guy. "Gay" was a slang word for gay men because of related reasons.

McKay said,
If people grew up with a word that was slowly changing meaning, they're likely to continue using it. I still use it to mean "weak or annoying". So do my friends and the people I work with.

I dont know anyone who uses the term gay unless its saying someone is a homosexual. Like I have gay friends. I dont use it as anything else. If I want to call something stupid, I do just that.

techbeck said,
People in the US use gay as meaning stupid, idiot, moronic....so not surprised search results are showing the same thing.

Of course, they also use it as happy and a term for homosexuals.

QFTW, there's every chance if a someone was looking for 'gayest apps', they'd actually be looking for the worst. So no fail on Googles part just fail in human nature.

Sylar0 said,
That was my point only childish school kids use it, I can't believe you saying where you live adults use it. What's next don't be herto don't be Black?

I'm an adult in the UK and call stuff "gay". So do many other adults i know, because they grew up with it. It's been used for decades now. How is it childish to call something "gay" ? The word has a different meaning to most people these days, and when most people say it it often has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuals. You must live under a rock or something.