People searching for abortion alternatives leads to "skewed" results

March 20, 2006 | 1 comment

I just came across an article from the New York Times where some pro-choice people, including the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (ugh), are upset with Amazon because its technology reflects the fact that people searching for books about “abortion” also tend to search for “adoption”. The headline reads Amazon Says Technology, Not Ideology, Skewed Results. Umm. Actually, the technology was fine and the results were not skewed. last week modified its search engine after an abortion rights organization complained that search results appeared skewed toward anti-abortion books.

Until a few days ago, a search of Amazon’s catalog of books using the word “abortion” turned up pages with the question, “Did you mean adoption?” at the top, followed by a list of books related to abortion.

Amazon removed that question from the search results page after it received a complaint from a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a national organization based in Washington.

Patty Smith, an Amazon spokeswoman, said there was no intent by the company to offer biased search results. She said the question “Did you mean adoption?” was an automated response based on past customer behavior combined with the site’s spelling correction technology…Amazon’s software suggested adoption-related sources because “abortion” and “adoption” have similar spellings, and because many past customers who have searched for “abortion” have also searched for “adoption.” [Emphasis mine]

So Amazon took down the “Did you mean adoption?” prompt. But that’s still not good enough. It would seem that the pro-abortion crowd won’t be happy until Amazon actually does skew its technology to prevent people who search on abortion from seeing adoption-related results, despite the fact that that’s how their customers usually behave.

Customers, however, are still offered “adoption” as a possibility in the Related Searches line at the top of an “abortion” search results page. But the reverse is not true.

Ms. Smith said that was because many customers who searched for abortion also searched for adoption, but customers who searched for “adoption” did not typically search for topics related to abortion.

Still, the Rev. Jeff Briere, a minister with the Unitarian Universalist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., and a member of the abortion rights coalition, said he was worried about an anti-abortion slant in the books Amazon recommended and in the “pro-life” and “adoption” related topic links.

“The search engine results I am presented with, their suggestions, seem to be pro-life in orientation, ” Mr. Briere said.

So Amazon’s algorithm’s accurate reflection of the fact that people who search on abortion also search on adoption, but not vice versa, has Rev. Briere “worried.”

The mentality of pro-choice activists is really strange. On one hand, they give lip service to seeing abortion as an unfortunate choice but thinking it should just be an option for women. But in actuality their actions often make it seem as if they’re opposed to women with unexpected pregnancies choosing anything other than abortion — or, as in this case, even exploring the alternatives!

1 Comment

  1. SmartBlkWoman

    Sadly, I think many pro-choicers are more concerned with ideology than they are about helping women. Many of them are so interested in protecting the right to abortion that they lose sight of the fact that the health and well-being of women should be the main focus.

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