Recently on social media, screenshots of a few Google results were spreading rapidly. The screenshots showed what came up when one searched for ‘North Indian Masala’ and ‘South Indian Masala’. On searching for the former, images of food items were listed and while searching for the latter, images of glamorous women were seen. Though this might seem like a simple matter, it’s not something to be taken lightly.
Google is a tool that most people in the world use to search for information. People believe that the information they come across through Google is true. Therefore, the results that Google lists for the search ‘South Indian Masala’ can seriously mislead people and give them a wrong impression about the people living in south India.
However, the mistake here is not entirely Google’s. We must take responsibility for at least half of the problem. Hence, it is our duty to clean up Google results. For a company like Google which has a south Indian as its CEO, the results could have been better. We see this as a problem for the south Indian image. That’s why it’s important to do something to protect the dignity of our people.
This is not the first time Google results are creating a controversy with its results. A year ago, Google image search was caught in a serious controversy. In the US, when one would search for “three white teenagers”, and “three black teenager’s”, Google images showed pictured of three white teenagers smiling for the first search and mug shots for the second search. This brought Google a lot of criticism and they were accused of being racist. Also, while searching for “top ten criminals”, the images of Narendra Modi were on the top and Google apologized for this by adding a note that these results were based on the Google algorithm and that it was not the company’s view.
We must first try to understand how Google works. “Google can’t understand images the way it understands words, with the help of the dictionary,” said a Tamil news website. As soon as an image is uploaded on the internet, a program called Google spider collects all dates on it and does this with all the websites. The nature of the image is determined by the file name of the image, the content of the article, and the words around the image and so on. More important than all of this is alt text. Google image search is influenced by alt text to a great extent.
Google image results are determined by the above-mentioned factors. When an image of a dosa is uploaded with a file name “Idly”, Google considers it as idly. This is the same problem with this north India – south India issue also.
Even if you type “Indian Masala” we will get the same photographic results and the reason is that some websites have uploaded such images with the title and file name as “South Indian Masala”. But when we type “North Indian Masala”, such results don’t show up because adult websites don’t use the phrase “North Indian Masala” to label these pictures very often.
Though Google is now using artificial intelligence, Google’s image search needs to improve a lot. Until Google starts using artificial intelligence completely, this problem is not going to be rectified as far as images are concerned.
So please upgrade yourself, Google!
We can change the Google image results in two ways. Google uses machine learning techniques to list its image results. First, it gives the images a specific rank and based on the rank, the image gets priority in the search. Later, based on the way users click on images the rank gets changed, and thus, the priority of the images also change. For example, if we leave out the first image of the search and click on the seventh image, then the seventh image will come first after a while, based on the activities of the users.
When we type “South Indian Masala”, and scroll down the list, images of masala dosa will also be there at the bottom. When thousands of people click on the food item, automatically they will start coming at the beginning of the search.
There is also one other way. If you are a blog user then you could easily make a big difference. On your websites and blogs, post images of masala dosa, with the title “South Indian Masala”. While uploading images this way make sure the file name, alt text and the content has the words “South Indian Masala” in it.
By doing all of this, can we really clean up Google results? We can’t do it immediately, but when hundreds of people do this work consistently, we’ll gradually see the change.