I’ve been sick with bronchitis the past couple of weeks – which is a growing and uncomfortable health trend of mine, that every cold turns into bronchitis – which has allowed an interesting picture into the world of video gaming and sexism.
I’ve been watching more YouTube than I should. It comes in easily digestible chunks and much of it is easy to follow. And, honestly, I don’t care if I follow it. Mainly, I watch videos about bicycling, professional wrestling, comedy, and bicycling. However, since I’m sick, I’ve been keeping track of the unfolding disaster that is Fallout 76, plus some other videos by presenters who I found amusing.
After about a week of this, though, YouTube has started to suggest a number of videos that are really sexist. Dudes complaining that social justice warriors are going to ruin the upcoming Witcher TV show, or videos about the reasons men aren’t helping women and children anymore (hint: it’s because they’re sexist… wait, that isn’t really a hint). Mind you, I sought out none of that kind of content. I was watching videos about video games, mostly Fallout 76 and other CRPGs. However, whatever algorithm YouTube uses to suggest videos has inferred – for the first time ever – that I also want to see “men’s rights activists” blather on about their sexism and racism. Of course, I do not.
It is interesting, though. Google’s algorithm is not political. There’s no profit in it for them to make bad matches. If Google’s algorithm is now popping up MRA videos (where MRA means “misogynist retching asshole?”) after I watch gaming videos, it’s because the algorithm has been taught that people who watch these kinds of videos, or these presenters, tend to go on to watch sexist videos of jerkwads complaining that the world revolves slightly less around straight white men than before.
One of the reasons this is so strange is that I didn’t get this openly sexist and racist stuff with other searches that I would have guessed to be worse along those lines. When researching the Lord Goblin books, I watched a number of videos about things like doomsday preppers and fundamentalist survivalists. Which means that video game reviews are more likely to bring up sexist, racist content than videos about crazy guys in the woods preparing for the UN to invade America while waiting for Jesus to return. They’re more sexist, racist than the people who have beliefs so extreme that it’s hard not to think they’re at least a little insane. Or, at least, Google thinks that people who watch a certain subset of gaming videos are more likely to want to watch openly racist and sexist content.
So, there you have it. Google’s algorithm has learned if you watch a certain number of video game reviews you’re probably a sexist shitheel. It’s pretty interesting… and, perhaps, an indictment of gamer culture.