Google was autocorrecting searches so that they read “Muslims support terrorism”, according to reports.
In a slip-up that has now been fixed, Google would tell people searching for “Muslims report terrorism” that they might have been looking instead for “Muslims support terrorism”.
The problem appears to have appeared automatically, and through no manual input from anyone at Google. It instead seems to be a result of the huge number of people searching for and writing that Muslims support acts of terror.
Google’s autocorrecting feature is thought to work by analysing words that tend to occur around each other, meaning that its computers are able to guess that one word is out of place, and what it might be supposed to read. But it appears to have done that for the terrorism phrase, with “support” being written around the world Muslims and
terrorism so much more that the algorithm saw it as an error.
Hind Makki, a blogger who first found the issue, told Quartz that she had found it while looking for a report specifically about the fact that Muslims do report suspicions of terrorism.
She was reporting a piece about “Clinton’s point about how American Muslims are ‘on the frontline of our defense’ and how problematic that framing is,” Ms Makki told Quartz. ““American Muslims *already* report suspicious activity & suspected terrorism to the authorities (and I wanted to link a particular study on my blog).”
Ms Makki said that the suggestion was “sad”, since it shows just how many people believe that Muslims are involved in supporting terrorism.
“I thought it was hilarious, but also sad and immediately screen capped it,” Ms Makki told Quartz. “I know it’s not Google’s ‘fault,’ but it goes to show just how many people online search for ‘Muslims support terrorism,’ though the reality on the ground is the opposite of that.”
The autocorrect has now been removed. It isn’t clear whether that was manually removed by Google, or if the articles posted about it have meant that “Muslims report terrorism” has been written together enough to alter Google’s calculations.