Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Backing Black

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Backing Black

Article excerpt

A new and controversial "Afrocentric" web portal, which tailors results specifically for African Americans, is dividing opinion. Named after the street of its offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, uses special search technology to give preference to websites that have black media content or are popular with black communities. The search engine "learns" from user habits and adapts, in time, to its audience.


The site has been up and running for a few months, with provocative and illuminating results. A query for "university" ranks Harvard first, the Wikipedia entry on "University" sixth, and websites about historically black colleges and universities in between. A search for "travel" gives half of the top ten results to Afrocentric tours or to black-owned travel businesses.

But a query about "Olympics", for example, points to the home page of the Olympic Movement and to African-American protests at the 1968 Games-but has nothing on Beijing 2008. Occasionally the results are startling: a query on "career advice" offers, in third place, a link to "Do 'Black' Names Matter? - African American Job & Career Advice from".

Sometimes the search engine successfully avoids race-related issues one might expect it to pick up on. "Deaths in custody", for example, yields reports about Aborigines in Australia, but little about deaths of black prisoners in the United States.

Some users have reacted to the site with suspicion: "It's like the BuckshotLane search engine. …

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