Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
If you ask Google “Who has scored the most goals in international football?” it will tell you the answer is Cristiano Ronaldo — in fact it’s a female footballer, Christine Sinclair.
Correct The Internet, a new campaign that aims to make sportswomen more visible kicks off at half-time during the Football Ferns v USA friendly match at Eden Park today.
The campaign highlights the inaccuracies in internet search results that disadvantage and minimise the efforts of sportswomen.
Co-founder and former New Zealand Football Fern, Rebecca Sowden, found that when people search online for factual sporting information about athletes, the results favour the sportsmen, even when the sportswomen have greater statistics.
“Many of the world’s leading athletes are women. Many of the world’s sporting records are held by women,” Sowden said. “Steffi Graf spent more time ranked No 1 in tennis than Novak Djokovic. And the USA Women’s Basketball team has won more than double the World Cup titles of any men’s team. And this was just the beginning.”
Correct The Internet collects these incorrect search results and factual inconsistencies and has built a simple tool making it easier to correct these errors by sending feedback easy for anyone to execute with just a couple of clicks.
Sowden told the Herald she was inspired to act because as well as being a sports fan, she considers herself an advocate.
“When you go to search these things and you’re getting served up the incorrect factual information; when all you want is what’s real and what’s true. It was really inspired by a genuine problem sports fans were experiencing.”
Sowden, who owns international women’s sports marketing and sponsorship consultancy Team Heroine, said this launch couldn’t be more timely. “With such a massive year of women’s sport in New Zealand: The Fifa World Cup’s coming, seeing the buzz of the Rugby World Cup, we’ve got this great momentum around the women’s game.
“People are finally seeing sportswomen for who they are.”
The campaign has gained support and endorsement from high-profile athletes and sporting organisations around the globe, including US football star Alex Morgan.
“I hope that it does continue to break barriers and this campaign is a success,” said Morgan. “When you look at women’s football continue to make a stamp on the sport.”
Football Fern Meikayla Moore echoes this: “This campaign is prefaced on not continuing to pitch women against men, but to correct and highlight incorrect searchable facts that have lacked consistency and accuracy leading to disadvantages for sportswomen across the globe.”
England’s rugby Red Roses’ star Shaunagh Brown said: “The only way to correct the algorithm is through the power of the people and Correct The Internet wants to empower people to help ensure accurate information is delivered to all of us.”
The United Nations has also shared support for the campaign. Maher Nasser, director of the UN’s Outreach Division, said: “With growing reliance on internet search engines to find information, algorithms assume that human biases, conscious and unconscious are the natural order of things and elevate results that conform with that.
“Gender equality starts with recognising the biases and challenges faced by women and girls and campaigns like Correct The Internet are a great way to unmask how the same biases have entered the virtual world.”