Autistic People Should…get a high five

8 Mar

During the past couple of weeks, a time when my focus has been on old and tired subjects, a small change in the online world happened. Small in the grand scheme of things, but a very good step forward. I’m speaking of the movement to change the way Google handles the phrase “autistic people should” in their auto-complete offerings.

Ever notice how as you enter terms in the search box for Google, it creates suggestions for you? Well, it turns out that sometimes those suggestions are ugly. For example, if you entered “autistic people should” you would get answers like “die” or “be exterminated”.

Autistic self advocates reacted and got Google to respond. Consider this story:

Google eliminates ‘die’ search suggestion for autism

The “auto-complete” function attempts to save time by suggesting the most common searches that match a user’s first few words. In the case of autism, three of the four suggestions could double as bumper-stickers for hate speech.

Sparrow acknowledged the search engine algorithm isn’t the problem; it is, rather, the frequency of the hostile search terms typed in by Google’s users.

They took a screenshot of what the auto-complete used to look like:


I’ll admit that the number 1 answer I get right now is “autistic people should killed”, but the rest are changed and we can hope that as the changes Google puts into place take effect, this will change as well.

It’s a small change, though. We live in a world where many people, apparently, enter “autistic people should be killed” into Google.

Autism Speaks took notice of the story linked above. They had a short teaser on their site, one that didn’t point out the efforts of the autistics who made it happen. And then, after some pressure, “Updated 3/6/13 to reflect the amazing efforts of the self-advocacy community”

Congratulations to those who made this change happen.

By Matt Carey

12 Responses to “Autistic People Should…get a high five”

  1. Julian Frost March 8, 2013 at 06:00 #


  2. David N. Brown March 8, 2013 at 23:07 #

    Speaking of google, they are still hosting a notorious cyberstalker who escalated from criminal harassment against me to effective have speech against all people with autism after the Newtown incident. See

    • Marc Wigle March 9, 2013 at 17:23 #

      David – I’m sure that you meant to say “hate” speech and not “have” speech in your message. As we both know, Scoville has a hate-on for anyone who he deems to view things differently than he… which is, thankfully, most sane people.

  3. Neuroskeptic March 10, 2013 at 16:28 #

    This is OK, but the fact that people search for something doesn’t mean they want it to happen. I recently Googled “barack obama a gay muslim”, not because I think he is one but because I wanted to see if anyone else does (sadly a lot of people do).

  4. stanley seigler March 11, 2013 at 01:05 #

    leave it to the professionals to provide critiques…but appreciate Matt Carey’s updates…and they are forwarded…

  5. David N. Brown March 12, 2013 at 05:54 #

    The completely wrong-headed thing about the “Obama-Muslim” angle is that the transparent intent is to somehow link him to Islamic terrorism. It’s not completely indefensible to describe him as “Muslim” in some sense, given that his father was a Muslim and he spent parts of his life in majority-Muslim areas. But it should be obvious to anyone remotely knowledgeable about Islam that this doesn’t connect him to radical Islamic terrorism any more than his Christian background would connect him to the Klan. If these people cared enough to make such distinctions, they wouldn’t be talking about it in the first place.

    David N. Brown Mesa Arizona

    • neverdefiled March 15, 2013 at 11:03 #

      Precisely David.

      @ euroskeptic – there are plenty of people who think that non-neurotypical, disabled and chronically ill people should be denied all sorts of rights that everyone else takes for granted. Ableism kills on a daily basis. it does so insidiously, by suggesting that we need to be “fixed”, so we’re killed by quack treatments. It kills legislatively, when we’re denied the ability to speak out about abuse, or funds that we need to live are withdrawn. It also kills directly, when people murder us. Strangers kill us because they’re whipped up by ableist rhetoric, family members kill us and are judged as having “suffered enough” or of “putting [us] out of [our] misery”, and because our lives are worth less, no justice is served.

      Barack Obama, OTOH, is the most powerful man in the world. Wealthy, influential, powerful, free. Someone stupidly typing “Obama gay Muslim”, while chuckling away to themselves, does not hurt Obama because you’re punching up at him.

      An ableist seeing confirmation of their belief that “Autistic people should die/be exterminated/sterilised” etc contributes to a punching downward, where the objects of their hate are verbally, visually, psychologically and physically abused, with blows raining down.

      Muslims and gay people are marginalised populations in the US and Europe. By using “gay Muslim” as signifiers of disgust, whether that’s a function of your ~hipster irony~ or out of genuine hatred, then once more, you’re not hurting Obama, but you’re contributing to hatred and negativity toward LGBT people and religious minorities.

      Shi*t only ever rolls downhill. Those of us here at the bottom of that hill are sick of trudging through it on a daily basis, suffering the toxic effects, because people like you are googling “Obama gay Muslim” or “Autistic people should be drowned” for a cheap laugh/sense of misplaced superiority at anyone else who’s searched for it. Maybe they shared your “reasons” for doing it, how can you tell?

      That’s right, you can’t. Hate in black and white, devoid of context or tone, is hate. It destroys lives and helps bigots justify their sexism/ableism/classism/racism/homophobia etc with “Everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?”, and it snowballs out of control.

  6. Catherine Fowler April 2, 2013 at 08:46 #

    Have you checked the Google search for “Austistic children should…” it’s still bad. But one for adults said Autistic people should be loved be heard and should flash blog.

  7. Nils Geylen (@nilsgeylen) April 3, 2013 at 14:48 #

    I had some thoughts but after reading one of the comments I won’t bother. Not interested in an avalanche of reproach for adding a point of view.

  8. June 4, 2013 at 16:27 #

    Where do they come up with this stuff%3

  9. June 4, 2013 at 16:28 #

    It was quite enticing.

  10. June 4, 2013 at 16:28 #

    Very great post. I am very happy to read this site. Thanks for giving us nice articles.

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