Recently Google came under pressure from users and anti-hate groups because of their search results for the word “jew.” A anti-jewish site, Jew Watch, was being delivered in the top search results on Google. Under pressure, Google has refused to censor their search engine results, which could lead such groups and censored sites to claim denial of “freedom of speech” and bring the ACLU into the whole messy scene.
Today, on Google’s new Google Blog, they explained their position on the controversy.
One of the unfortunate effects of leaving no stone unturned to build a comprehensive web index is that occasionally you uncover a site that should never have been exposed to the light of day. It’s particularly unsettling when that site is devoted to spreading hatred and the result shows up in a search for the group being attacked. We cannot state strongly enough our distaste and displeasure that just such a hate site has been in our results lately.
Google also released this statement:
An explanation of our search results.
If you recently used Google to search for the word “Jew,” you may have seen results that were very disturbing. We assure you that the views expressed by the sites in your results are not in any way endorsed by Google. We’d like to explain why you’re seeing these results when you conduct this search.
A site’s ranking in Google’s search results is automatically determined by computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query. Sometimes subtleties of language cause anomalies to appear that cannot be predicted. A search for “Jew” brings up one such unexpected result.
If you use Google to search for “Judaism,” “Jewish” or “Jewish people,” the results are informative and relevant. So why is a search for “Jew” different? One reason is that the word “Jew” is often used in an anti-Semitic context. Jewish organizations are more likely to use the word “Jewish” when talking about members of their faith. The word has become somewhat charged linguistically, as noted on websites devoted to Jewish topics such as these:
Someone searching for information on Jewish people would be more likely to enter terms like “Judaism,” “Jewish people,” or “Jews” than the single word “Jew.” In fact, prior to this incident, the word “Jew” only appeared about once in every 10 million search queries. Now it’s likely that the great majority of searches on Google for “Jew” are by people who have heard about this issue and want to see the results for themselves.
Our search results are generated completely objectively and are independent of the beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google. Some people concerned about this issue have created online petitions to encourage us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Because of our objective and automated ranking system, Google cannot be influenced by these petitions. The only sites we omit are those we are legally compelled to remove or those maliciously attempting to manipulate our results.
We apologize for the upsetting nature of the experience you had using Google and appreciate your taking the time to inform us about it.
The Google Team