Questionable eBay adverts on Google "Jewish cemetery" searches

 by Martin Belam, 14 May 2007

One of the issues Google has had to deal with is how to rank sites that can be considered by some to be "hate speech" and offensive. The Google position is quite clear - they don't interfere with their algorithm, and the computer decides who gets ranked where.

This has been a particular problem with anti-Semitic content on the web, and when you perform searches around the topic of Judaism and the Jewish people, Google puts a little disclaimer into the advertising space on the right-hand side of the page.


This links through to a page which reiterates their fundamental position:

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.

It seems a very sensible way of dealing with the situation, and is an approach that has won praise from the Anti-Defamation League

All of which makes me wonder something.

If Google have taken such care over the issue of taste when dealing with queries to do with the Jewish faith, why, when performing a search for "Jewish cemetery", do they allow the following eBay advert to run underneath their own disclaimer.


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