The first time Google found itself in trouble about their “unprofessional hairstyles” search results was four years ago. The search engine is a favorite, but when users saw that “unprofessional hairstyles” brought up photos of black people—specifically donning natural, braided, or dreaded styles—people became upset. It seems that the controversy has made its way to 2020, because Google is once again addressing their controversial issue since not much has changed.
The Shade Room reportedly spoke with Cathy Edwards, the Vice President of Google Images, and she explained how the search engine’s algorithm works. “Our Google Images search systems rely on a number of factors, including word matching, to surface results,” said Edwards. “For many of the results, the words ‘unprofessional hairstyles’ appear in the articles, and many of these stories are rightly denouncing the discrimination people of color face when it comes to their hair.”
“While we include captions to help people understand why these images are relevant to the query, we acknowledge that the association can be concerning and painful to see without the fuller context,” Edwards added. “Ensuring that all people and communities are able to find helpful results in Google Images is something we care about deeply and are actively working to improve.” Basically, Google isn’t the one labeling the styles as unprofessional, it’s the bloggers, writers, and commentators penning articles that are making the correlation popular.