The internet is regarded as one of the main breeding grounds for new ideas and debates. This may be obvious to most people, as seen through the political debates within Twitter threads, blogs about conspiracy theories, or discussions between opposing sports teams in Youtube live chats. However, sometimes, the debates formed as a result of the internet may be about a very unmeaningful or unconstructive topic which most would find silly. For example, within the past years, some of the most viral debates that sprung up on the internet include “is water wet?” and ”are there more doors or wheels in the world?” Within this blog, I will focus on another argument that has been popular on the internet for years: does pineapple belong on pizza?
Although pineapple pizza long existed before the internet we know today existed, this debate was made popular through the internet. Before this debate became popular on the internet and reached its peak in 2016, most may have had neutral views on pineapple on pizza. To most people, including myself, pineapple may have just been “another topping” for pizza, similar to pepperoni, mushrooms, and olives on pizza. However, these other toppings have not been subject to as large of an internet debate as compared to pineapples on pizza. Even though each of us may have our own opinions regarding this issue, it may not be big enough for us to argue. Even the fact that celebrities are publicly choosing sides in this debate sounds ridiculous.
Although most of the debate on whether pineapple belongs on pizza is based on its taste, many other factors fuel the debate as well. For example, savory pizza is a large part of Italian culture. Thus, something sweet and unusual, like pineapple, would go against Italian culture. Furthermore, a popular pizza that has pineapples as its topping is called Hawaiian Pizza. Although this name seems to imply that the pizza originated from Hawaii, an American state, it originated in Canada. Additionally, pineapples are not native to both Hawaii and Canada, but rather to Brazil. The differences in culture and location also contribute to the pineapple-on-pizza debate.
As a result of the pineapple on pizza debate, I decided to input the phrase “is pineapple on pizza” into a search engine and look at the provided autosuggestions. Although I originally tested this on three different search engines (Google, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo), this blog will primarily focus on the autosuggestions provided within the DuckDuckGo because of their promotion of privacy as well as the large number of unfiltered autosuggestion results as compared to the other search engines. Also, all three search engines, for the most part, had very similar autosuggestions and search results. Thus, the results and representations by DuckDuckGo can be generalized to other search engines as well.
As seen by the eight autosuggestion results generated by DuckDuckGo after typing “is pineapple on pizza” in the search bar, all of the results either had a positive or a negative connotation attached to them. In fact, it could be seen that all of these results are mainly opinionated and were on the two extremes rather than neutral (such as providing definitions, locations, origins, etc). As seen through the image, “is pineapple on pizza good” and “is pineapple on pizza healthy” are the only two results that had a positive connotation attached to them. It could be inferred that these two results were asked by those who wanted to eat good food or want to be healthy. On the other hand, the other six results all had negative connotations attached to them. Since there are three times as many autosuggestions that have a negative connotation attached to them compared to ones with positive connotations, it may cause users to believe that the opinion “pineapples do not belong on pizza” is more popular. Thus, this may also cause users who support pineapple pizzas to change their opinion to the other side in order to fit with the majority. Furthermore, it could be vice versa, as pineapple pizza haters may change sides if they want to feel special or unique. Thus, this would accurately reflect Safiya Umoja Noble’s claim that “search results can reframe our thinking and deny us the ability to engage deeply with essential information and knowledge we need” in her book Algorithms of Oppression (Noble 2018, 116). The imbalance in how many results appear that support one side of the debate over the other can sway users, possibly causing them to switch sides without completing more research on all sides of the debate and making a more uninformed decision. In all, the autosuggestions presented the topic of pineapple on pizza in a negative light, thus supporting the idea that pineapple does not belong on pizza more favorably.
Branching off the negatively associated suggestions, the fact that the search engine provided results asking if pineapple on pizza was a crime, sin, or illegal shocked me, especially since it sounds very unreasonable that a simple food combination would be associated with those strong words. Also, the autosuggestion of “is pineapple on pizza illegal in italy” especially caught my eye because of how specific it was, thus prompting me to click the suggestion. From looking at the first page of generated sites, I found out that “putting pineapple on pizza under any circumstances is tantamount to an Act of War under International Law” and is also considered “a barbaric practice” which I did not know before (Sigurdsson 2020). This shows these results can express cultural values such as how some countries (like Italy) are more against pineapple on pizza, because of their refusal to combine sweet with salty flavors together, as compared to most other countries. These cultural values could also be a large factor in the number and the severity of the negatively associated autosuggestions. However, this also shows that even though these results seem to support a specific side of the pineapple-on-pizza argument, some of the results can also help users to learn new things and possibly affect their original opinions.
Although looking at autosuggestions is a good way to see how pineapple on pizza is represented by search engines, another way to see this representation is to search “pineapple on pizza” in the search engine itself and look at the first page of results.
As I expected, the search engine provided images of pineapple on pizza as well as several sites (which had a neutral stance) that explained what this debate is. However, it was very shocking to me that out of the few sites that were opinion-based, more sites supported the idea that pineapples belong on pizza. For example, the third site is titled “Why Pineapple Belongs on Pizza” and the sixth site is titled “10 Reasons Why Pineapple Topping Belongs on Pizza.”
Thus, these results (more neutral stances and more support for pineapple on pizza) highly differ from the autosuggestions (no neutral stances and more support for pineapple not on pizza). Since the first page had more results that supported pineapples on pizza, this represented the topic more favorably and it expresses the cultural views that are similar to the Canadians, who are okay with mixing sweet and salty flavors.
If you are wondering what my opinion on this debate is, I am fairly neutral, but slightly leaning to the side that pineapple does not belong on pizza. If there were other pizza toppings available, I would go for those toppings instead. However, if pineapple pizza was the only pizza left at an event, I wouldn’t mind eating it. Even though I would have predicted that the pineapple-on-pizza debate would also feature fairly neutral results (or at the very least have a balanced mixture between the two sides), this project explicitly showed how search engines could be very biased and not be completely representative of the whole population.
Coldwell, Will. 2021. “The Great Hawaiian Pizza Culture War.” The Economist. May 10, 2021. https://www.economist.com/1843/2021/05/10/the-great-hawaiian-pizza-culture-war.
Fox, Catherine. 2020. “So What’s the Deal with Hawaiian Pizza?” Hawai’i Magazine. February 6, 2020. https://www.hawaiimagazine.com/so-whats-the-deal-with-hawaiian-pizza/.
Lee, Denise. 2021. “10 Reasons Why Pineapple Topping Belongs on Pizza.” Jamaicans.com. April 27, 2021. https://jamaicans.com/10-reasons-why-pineapple-topping-belongs-on-pizza/.
Noble, Safiya Umoja. 2018. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York: New York University Press.
Sigurdsson, Skuli. 2020. “The Prohibition of Pineapple on Pizza — a Legal Analysis.” Medium. April 8, 2020. https://skulfurinn.medium.com/the-prohibition-of-pineapple-on-pizza-a-legal-analysis-7cbadd5797#:~:text=The%20State%20of%20Italy%20has.