Thursday, March 23, 2006

Word Associations

This week's story in the New York Times, "Amazon Says Technology, Not Ideology, Skewed Results," describes how visitors to the behemoth bookseller's site who typed in "abortion" were asked if they meant "adoption" and given a list of largely virulently anti-abortion books.

The company claims that the search algorithm was to blame, and that people searching for books on "abortion" also often were searching for books on "adoption." The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice applauded Amazon's decision to respond to their complaint about the search results by removing the potentially insensitive automatic suggestions.

From looking at my own "recommendations" list, I know that Amazon searches make for strange bedfellows, but the assertion that this was an unintentional mistake sounds unlikely.

Certainly abortion foes are now adequately web-savvy to tinker with search results, just as those on the left have done for years. Abortion cyber-activists offer abortion counters, downloadable graphic images that are generally edited out of mainstream coverage of pro-life events, and blogs like the one from the Family Research Council, which includes a "This Day in History / Quote of the Day" feature that connect anti-abortion activism to abolitionist and civil rights struggles in history.

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