Female web developer wanted. Must love shoes and nail varnish

Some developers are being sexist. It must be a Thursday.

Another month, another example of the programming community being a fairly hostile place towards women. German web developers Bloopark are looking for a new developer – but they've put up two adverts:

Web developer (m) Need for programming You are addicted to PHP, MySQL and Javascript since years? Your life makes no sence without programming? Your girlfriend doesn't understand, why you start learning the fifth php framework and your parents say, your head is full of unix and linux. Do you want to talk to us about this? We want to invite you to an anonymous or maybe very personal meeting. No worries, we will bring you to a team that understands you and will support your passion of programming.

Web developer (f) Beautiful und sexy code wanted We are convinced that woman are great programmers. Woman write sexy code: neat and clean. Many of them have long relationship... with PHP5, MySQL and Javascript. They like to talk and communication is essential in our work. Female programmers get along with customers very well and take such a good care of code quality, as if it is a pair of their new shoes. The best thing is that their detailed documentation and code organisation match the rules of Feng-Shui. Are you a female programmer with passion? May we invite you for coffee?

In case that's too small to read, here's the text alone:

Web developer (m)

Need for programming

You are addicted to PHP, MySQL and Javascript since years? Your life makes no sence without programming? Your girlfriend doesn't understand, why you start learning the fifth php framework and your parents say, your head is full of unix and linux. Do you want to talk to us about this? We want to invite you to an anonymous or maybe very personal meeting. No worries, we will bring you to a team that understands you and will support your passion of programming.

Web developer (f)

Beautiful und sexy code wanted

We are convinced that woman are great programmers. Woman write sexy code: neat and clean. Many of them have long relationship... with PHP5, MySQL and Javascript. They like to talk and communication is essential in our work. Female programmers get along with customers very well and take such a good care of code quality, as if it is a pair of their new shoes. The best thing is that their detailed documentation and code organisation match the rules of Feng-Shui. Are you a female programmer with passion? May we invite you for coffee?

It's worth noting that each of the adverts leads to an application page with identical wording (male, female); the adverts really do differ purely in an ill-advised effort to appeal to women. While it's not as offputting as the time a Ruby developer appeared to offer the presence of women as a perk in a job ad, it's still just the latest example of the endemic sexism in the community.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Fark.com’s censorship story is a striking insight into Google’s unchecked power

The founder of the community-driven website claims its advertising revenue was cut off for five weeks.

When Microsoft launched its new search engine Bing in 2009, it wasted no time in trying to get the word out. By striking a deal with the producers of the American teen drama Gossip Girl, it made a range of beautiful characters utter the words “Bing it!” in a way that fell clumsily on the audience’s ears. By the early Noughties, “search it” had already been universally replaced by the words “Google it”, a phrase that had become so ubiquitous that anything else sounded odd.

A screenshot from Gossip Girl, via ildarabbit.wordpress.com

Like Hoover and Tupperware before it, Google’s brand name has now become a generic term.

Yet only recently have concerns about Google’s pervasiveness received mainstream attention. Last month, The Observer ran a story about Google’s auto-fill pulling up the suggested question of “Are Jews evil?” and giving hate speech prominence in the first page of search results. Within a day, Google had altered the autocomplete results.

Though the company’s response may seem promising, it is important to remember that Google isn’t just a search engine (Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has too many subdivisions to mention). Google AdSense is an online advertising service that allows many websites to profit from hosting advertisements on its pages, including the New Statesman itself. Yesterday, Drew Curtis, the founder of the internet news aggregator Fark.com, shared a story about his experiences with the service.

Under the headline “Google farked us over”, Curtis wrote:

“This past October we suffered a huge financial hit because Google mistakenly identified an image that was posted in our comments section over half a decade ago as an underage adult image – which is a felony by the way. Our ads were turned off for almost five weeks – completely and totally their mistake – and they refuse to make it right.”

The image was of a fully-clothed actress who was an adult at the time, yet Curtis claims Google flagged it because of “a small pedo bear logo” – a meme used to mock paedophiles online. More troubling than Google’s decision, however, is the difficulty that Curtis had contacting the company and resolving the issue, a process which he claims took five weeks. He wrote:

“During this five week period where our ads were shut off, every single interaction with Google Policy took between one to five days. One example: Google Policy told us they shut our ads off due to an image. Without telling us where it was. When I immediately responded and asked them where it was, the response took three more days.”

Curtis claims that other sites have had these issues but are too afraid of Google to speak out publicly. A Google spokesperson says: "We constantly review publishers for compliance with our AdSense policies and take action in the event of violations. If publishers want to appeal or learn more about actions taken with respect to their account, they can find information at the help centre here.”

Fark.com has lost revenue because of Google’s decision, according to Curtis, who sent out a plea for new subscribers to help it “get back on track”. It is easy to see how a smaller website could have been ruined in a similar scenario.


The offending image, via Fark

Google’s decision was not sinister, and it is obviously important that it tackles things that violate its policies. The lack of transparency around such decisions, and the difficulty getting in touch with Google, are troubling, however, as much of the media relies on the AdSense service to exist.

Even if Google doesn’t actively abuse this power, it is disturbing that it has the means by which to strangle any online publication, and worrying that smaller organisations can have problems getting in contact with it to solve any issues. In light of the recent news about Google's search results, the picture painted becomes more even troubling.

Update, 13/01/17:

Another Google spokesperson got in touch to provide the following statement: “We have an existing set of publisher policies that govern where Google ads may be placed in order to protect users from harmful, misleading or inappropriate content.  We enforce these policies vigorously, and taking action may include suspending ads on their site. Publishers can appeal these actions.”

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.