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Racism In Online Ad Targeting 474

An anonymous reader writes "Most of us are familiar with advertisements in online web searching, and by now we've grown accustomed to scrolling past the 'sponsored' results to get to the real responses to our query. And we know the ads are context-sensitive; for example, searching for our favorite Federation Starship will bring up ads for a similarly-named car-rental agency. But now a Harvard University professor has found a more disturbing trend in those contextual ads: racism. 'Sweeney says she has evidence that black identifying names are up to 25 per cent more likely to be served with an arrest-related ad. "There is discrimination in delivery of these ads," she concludes. Sweeney gathered this evidence by collecting over 2000 names that were suggestive of race. For example, first names such as Trevon, Lakisha and Darnell suggest the owner is black while names like Laurie, Brendan and Katie suggest the owner is white. She then entered these plus surnames into and and examined the ads they returned. Most names generated ads for public records. However, black-identifying names turned out to be much more likely than white-identifying names to generate ads that including the word "arrest" (60 per cent versus 48 per cent).'"
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Racism In Online Ad Targeting

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:03PM (#42790013)

    Now we can all rest easy knowing that Harvard Law Processors have nothing better to do than look thru ads on google.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:04PM (#42790021)

    But does anyone know what the most popular names associated with arrest rates happen to be? Maybe there's actual correlation there?
    And I'm not saying that's correct either, since there is likely strong racial bias in many arrests made by officers themselves...

  • And? (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:06PM (#42790041)

    And, on average, someone black in America is more likely to be arrested. Providing the right service to the right person, isn't that what targeted ads are about?

  • Namism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bigby ( 659157 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:10PM (#42790111)

    This isn't racism; it is namism. Nowhere in the process is race ever part of the equation. If people named "Shaquille" are 5x more like to commit crimes, then that is a stereotype of the name "Shaquille"...a namist conclusion.

    Our facination or eagerness to link things to skin color is really counterproductive and ignores the real issue. IMO, names bring about stereotypes moreso than skin color. It spans gender, language, and race. What would you think the first time you saw someone with the last name "Hitler"?

  • by CodeReign ( 2426810 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:14PM (#42790187)

    [Citation needed]

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <`ten.tsacmoc' `ta' `yburxyno'> on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:14PM (#42790193)

    Pick a subject, any subject, the reality of that subject is politically incorrect to someone, somewhere. You are politically incorrect to your ancestors just as your descendants will condemn you for being politically incorrect. I say this and it doesn't matter who you, what your culture is, where you live, your religion (or lack of religion) what your values are, what your accomplishments are or any other given thing. History is politically incorrect and it will remain that way because that is human nature.l

    Articles like this are rage mongering and professional trolling deserve to admonished. A little more tolerance by society would go a lot longer to ease race / religious / gender / etc relations that mongering articles like this ever will. It's why MLK was so popular and the like's of Jessie Jackson can never get past 3rd rate achievers. It's the difference between trolling for dollars and dreaming of tolerance.

    /rant off

  • Targeted Ads (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Java Pimp ( 98454 ) <java_pimp AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:16PM (#42790235) Homepage

    Targeted ads are by definition discriminating.

  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:59PM (#42790841)

    You haven't identified the cause either. The most elite, wealthy, privileged blacks are still far more likely to commit crimes than the most disadvantaged non-blacks (including downtrodden whites in Appalachia, incredibly poor Asian immigrants with no English skills, etc).

    Now THIS sounds like racism. I've known many wealthy blacks as well as wealthy whites and I personally don't know ANY wealthy blacks that have committed crimes, but I know several whites that have been arrested by the FBI or the cops for their shady business dealings or embezzlement. This is just one data point, but I would doubt very highly that the quoted statement is true.

  • by Frojack123 ( 2606639 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @07:02PM (#42790881)

    Or could it be that we already know what the cause is, but it is inconvenient to mention it?

    Black cops arrest black perps at least at the same rate as white cops.
    Black Judges sentence black criminals to terms that do not differ from those by White Judges.
    Citation Here. []

    There is some evidence [] that Black Officers arrest blacks at a higher rate than white officers,
    probably because they don't have to be worried about being charged with racism.

    Findings suggest that officer race has direct influence on arrest outcomes and there are substantive differences between White and Black officers in the decision to arrest. In general, White officers in our study were more likely to arrest suspects than Black officers, but Black suspects were more likely to be arrested when the decision maker was a Black officer.

    Why is it racist to use black crime statistics, but not sexist to use male crime statistics?

  • by tbird81 ( 946205 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @07:20PM (#42791133)

    So how many people did they rape? You know, attack a woman, hold her down, beat the shit out of her, then forcefully have sex with her, kick her in the head and leave her for dead alone in an alleyway?

    Why are you obsessed with the monetary amount of damage? It's just money. The biggest criminals and the people who destroy human life and dignity.

  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @08:19PM (#42791839)
    I keep getting ads for bail bonds and DUII attorneys. This started happening lately -- the only change in my behavior lately is that I've stopped buying and drinking beer (reasons to do with the circumference of my waistline). While it's extremely disturbing, I wouldn't be surprised if that information -- somehow -- is filtering back to Internet ad companies. Who the fuck knows how they know, but they do.
  • by ZigiSamblak ( 745960 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @10:22AM (#42796159)
    You don't just have to look at the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of black people in jail, there are more disturbing statistics:

    - A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists.
    - Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement.
    - The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes.

    But the most interesting statistic for this debate is this:

    - The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses.

    So for a black person living up in a poor community in the USA (which is likely since a much larger percentage of hispanic and black people live in poor areas) you are basically branded as a criminal from birth. And you have a one in three chance of going to prison. Black people are aware of this of course, when society already treats you as a criminal due to the way you look then what motivation do you have to work hard to become a respected citizen? Especially when you are often put at a disadvantage.

    I live in the Netherlands where the role blacks used to have ("passing the black pete" is an expression meaning passing the blame in Dutch) is now passed on to the Maroccans. I remember working in a toy store for a short time 10 years ago. One of the first things the manager told me was to keep an eye on Maroccans if I saw them enter the store. I remember thinking that I couldn't really blame them for living up to their reputation if I ever caught them stealing. Why even try to become a valued member of a society that will not accept you as an equal?

    So if you want to keep entertaining the thought that there must be something wrong with black people that makes them more criminal than other races then you should keep ignoring the fact that in most other cultures there are other minorities who get blamed for most crap and consequently have a hard time in life which stimulates more criminal behaviour. Rinse and repeat.

Happiness is twin floppies.