LnkedIn forced to change ‘sexist’ algorithm to remove male name bias

LinkedIn has tweaked its search algorithm over claims it was sexist because it appeared to favour male versions of female names in searches. The professional networking site said it had upgraded its system in the wake of a Seattle Times investigation. It will remove the bias towards male variants of spellings, even when typing in a female name. Instead, it would now “explicitly recognise people’s names” so that alternative names would not be proposed. The company said the apparent male name bias was because they were the most frequently searched terms and had nothing to do with gender.

The search algorithm is guided by relative frequencies of words appearing in previous queries and member profiles, it isn’t anything to do [with] sex

LinkedIn spokeswoman

Before the upgrade, searches for 100 of the most common male names in the US failed to result in prompts indicating female variants of those names, the Seattle Times said. For instance, searching for “Stephanie Williams” on the site would trigger a prompt for “Stephen Williams” as well as the 2,500-plus users actually called Stephanie Williams. A search for “Stephen Williams,” however, just displayed the 7,200 results for people with that name. Last month, Facebook overhauled its Trending feature, which recommends online content, after complaints it was biased towards left-leaning stories.