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Recent study claims Google ads racist

By Christian Vazquez
On February 12, 2013

Googles pay-per-click ads are showing a slightly skewed pool of racially charged ads, according to a new study by Harvard University professor Latanya Sweeney.


Sweeneys study, Discrimination in Online Ad Delivery, was published Jan. 28. The article claims that Google is more likely to return a background-check ad if a user searches for a traditionally black name; while those with a traditionally white name produces White Pages listings.


Sweeneys findings demonstrate that a higher percentage of black names resulting in ads with the word arrest at 57 percent, compared to the 51 percent of ads for white names.

According to Sweeneys study, for an ad to show up, a sponsor provides Google with search criteria, copies of possible ads to deliver once a match occurs and a financial bid if a reader clicks the delivered ad.


Google gets thousands of ads that the companies send with key words that correspond with them. This way the company can specify when their ad will pop up.

The highest bidding companies get their ads placed the study stated.


Sweeney conducted her study from Sept. 24 through Oct. 23, 2012. During that time, she did research at different times of the day, week and month with different IP and computer addresses in different parts of the U.S. while using different browsers.


This paper is a start and more research is needed; however, online advertising is dynamic and easy to change, Sweeneys said.

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