Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: One of the top search results in Google for the word "jew" points to an anti-Semitic site.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2004]
Origins: Their ability to comb the Internet places the power of fast and easy acquisition of information into our hands, but search engines also have the potential of herding information-seekers towards a few specific web pages via their ranking systems. Sites that appear high in those rankings
Unfortunately, in the case of the word "jew," that prize is currently going to an unsavory entity.
Although the removejewwatch.com web site mentioned in the widely circulated
"We find this result offensive, but the objectivity of our ranking function prevents us from making any changes," said David Krane, a Google spokesman. Google makes exceptions to this hands-off policy only in instances where the content of a site is illegal (e.g. child pornography, pedophilia forums).
The search engine giant has been returning Jewwatch.com as its number one result for the word "jew" since 2001 (the rankings are volatile and can change several times a day; sometimes other pages temporarily occupy the top spot), but this ordering appears to have escaped widespread notice until a
Surely [Rabbi Daniel] Lapin agrees that there is still plenty of anti-Semitism to combat even in the US, as one who simply googles the word 'Jew' will discover (the very first website that pops up is 'Jewwatch — keeping an eye on Jewish terrorists, Jewish atrocities, and Jewish banking and financial manipulations.')The offense has been going on for years; only the hue and cry is new.
As right as it initially might seem for Google to remove JewWatch.com from its listings, to do so would mean this very respected search service would have to put at risk its reliability by engaging in censorship on a subjective basis (rather than excluding sites based on the objective criterion of illegality). Few sites are so innocuous as to bar disgruntled persons from starting movements to exclude them from search engine rankings, and once Google has acquiesced to one such pressuring, it would inevitably be viewed as "unfair" for not giving in to many of the other similar movements that would surely come. (Thousands of web sites on the Internet include anti-Semitic material
Google stands by its assessment that its numbers justify assigning JewWatch a high ranking in its search results for the word "jew." Different search engines derive their results in different ways, but Google, the most popular search engine, orders the results it presents on the basis of how many other sites link to a page or web site. In general, the more and better those links are, the higher the matches for the linked site will appear in Google's search results. (The quality of the sites linking to the looked-for terms are factored in, as explained in Google's article about
For now at least, Google has chosen not to cave in to the demand. By taking this path, this most popular of online services has chosen to risk a measure of unpopularity for the sake of continued reliability rather than gambling on the often fickle nature of human gratitude.
Barbara "betting the farm team" Mikkelson
Last updated: 6 September 2007
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