How Google’s negative representation of Scarborough sparked a protest movement

By Albina Retyunskikh

November 27, 2019

Coun. Michael Thompson speaking at City Hall on Tuesday. ALBINA RETYUNSKIKH/TORONTO OBSERVER

Web giant Google has received a lot of backlash when its artificial intelligence wasn’t intelligent enough to find a more suitable image than a crumbling house to represent Scarborough.

The morning after Coun. Michael Thompson asked Google Canada to publicly apologize for the unflattering photo, the search engine company posted seven tweets expressing its love for Scarborough with the hashtag #ScarbTO.

“Scarborough is not a community of broken houses and desolate places, but one of the city’s most vibrant and dynamic communities and one of the best places to live in the City of Toronto,” said Thompson at City Hall on Tuesday.

Some think the photo was a result of a casual mistake of Google’s algorithm. Others believe it is yet another instance of negative representation of Scarborough, a part of the City of Toronto.

“If there was a shooting or a stabbing, it would be ‘Shooting in Scarborough’. And when there was something at Jane and Wilson, it didn’t say ‘North York’, it said ‘Jane and Wilson’,” Coun. Paul Ainslie of Scarborough’s Ward 21 told Toronto Observer reporters on Tuesday at City Hall.

For Thompson, of Scarborough’s Ward 24, this was another instance of geographic bigotry affecting his community since decades. 

Thompson pointed out that Scarborough is the place that best reflects Toronto’s motto, “Diversity is our strength”, and serves as the best arrival city for new immigrants from all around the world. 

“We welcome diversity. We encourage diversity. We embrace diversity. We are proud of our diversity. The people of Scarborough love their community and I can’t tell you how proud I am and grateful to represent them on council. We are tired of the excuses. The people of Scarborough deserve better,” he told council.

The hashtag #ScarbTO is now being widely used by the community to show images of Scarborough’s natural beauty, such as Rouge National Urban Park and the Scarborough Bluffs. Thompson also announced his plan to launch a contest in which Scarborough residents would be able to upload their favourite images of the city.

As of now, Google Canada has only tweeted its love for Scarborough, but hasn’t issued an official apology.

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Posted: Nov 27 2019 2:44 am
Filed under: News