It’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the services of the biggest company in the world are still, in effect, helping neo-Nazis spread their propaganda.
For months, perhaps years, Google search has been giving Holocaust deniers a tool to spread their abhorrent views to unsuspecting browsers on the web. After a sustained shaming by various organizations (most notably by Carole Cadwalladr at the Guardian) at the end of 2016, Google managed to tweak its algorithm so that the first returned search term for “Did the Holocaust…” was not a neo-Nazi site claiming that the Holocaust didn’t happen.
But this is a cosmetic fix to a particularly narrow search. If, using the private browsing mode so your browsing history doesn’t influence the results, you type “Is the Holo…,” six of the top ten returns still deny the Holocaust took place.
If you search Google images for “Jew” you get a bizarre smattering of Nazi icons and caricatures, pictures of Hitler, unflattering pictures of ultra-Orthodox Jews and, of course, Woody Allen.
Google argues that they are not making money from these results and that they are improving their search. Presumably, too, their technicians fear that were they to block sites about this topic they will be pressured to block sites about other topics. But, this is not about Freedom of Speech as protected by the First Amendment. This is not even about a successful algorithm. This is Google losing the game of providing useful information to billions, and losing to a tiny — but determined — minority of counter-factual racists.
And it matters. ...