Column: Google’s misstep

The word “anti-Semitism” has been tossed around more frequently in the past few months – mainly because of the recent release of the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” Rather than allow people who spout anti-Semitic rhetoric to go around unchecked, I decided that, as a Jew, I had a duty to be an opposing voice. However, I wasn’t confident enough about some of the details of my religion, nor was I fluent enough in my religious history, to actively engage in a debate. So I turned to the Internet, and with the help of the No. 1 search engine, Google, I hoped to better understand what it actually means to be a Jew. I sat down, turned on my monitor, went to Google’s homepage, and typed “Jew” in the search box. One of the first links that came up was a site that was created and maintained to promote anti-Semitic opinions and ideals.

I was aghast. If one searches Google for the United States of America, for example, one does not see al-Qaeda’s home page. If one searches for Islam, he or she doesn’t receive sites blaming the entire Muslim community for 9/11. In both cases, the first hits one receives are basic, informative sites about the specific topic. Yet, when a 10-year-old searches the word “Jew” for a class project and then clicks on the first site, he will learn that the Holocaust didn’t actually occur, and how it was just a weak attempt by the Jews to gain a homeland to which they were not entitled. Perhaps the little 10-year-old will learn how the B’nai Brith, a group that sponsors two of the largest Jewish youth organizations in the country, is responsible for corrupting the youth of the world. The means of corruption, according to this Web site, is teaching youth about Zionism and Judaism.

Now, if you are as shocked to hear that as I was to see it, then you can actively do something to protest. A petition is being sent around the Internet to remove that site from the Google “Jew” search. As of now, the petition has more than 70,000 signatures, all based on word of mouth spread through e-mails. Google, unfortunately, believes that it cannot do anything to remove the site as the lead “Jew” search result, regardless of how many people sign the petition. Google has stated that the First Amendment grants the site Internet access and availability, so having it in a “Jew” search is completely legal.

I thought about that point, and as much as I wanted Jewwatch.com to be banished from the Internet, I agreed with Google. Its First Amendment rights allow it to have that site, saying whatever they like. However, does that right extend to having that site appear first or second in a search for “Jew”? Putting it in perspective, if one goes to the library and looks in the card catalog for the term “Jew,” would the first suggested book be titled “The Benefits of Nazism and the Downfall of Judaism”?

Google further states that the term “Jew” is not an endearing term to the Jewish people, so rather than searching for “Jew,” one should try to search for “Judaism” or “Jewish.” That statement, made by the corporate office of Google, affected me terribly. Never in my life has it been “bad” or “negative” to be a Jew. I’m not proposing Jewwatch.com be banned from the Internet. All I am saying is that having it in a search engine under the heading “anti-Semitic” would be more appropriate. I urge all of you to see what Google has allowed, then, if you believe as I do that it is wrong, I urge you to go and sign the petition at http://www.PetitionOnline.com/rjw23.

As for me, I plan to boycott Google until this is fixed. Search engines like Yahoo! offer educational sites for the search “Jew.” Go out and make your voice heard.

-The writer is a freshman.

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