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Googling Anti-Semitism

by Joe Eskenazi

March 18, 2004 | 7:00 pm

Online searchers punching the word "Jew" into the Google search engine may be surprised at the results they get.

In fact, the No. 1 result for the search entry "Jew" turns out to be www.jewwatch.com. The fanatically anti-Semitic hate site is ranked first in relevance of more than 1.72 million Web pages.

Google, like other online search engines, is utilized by Web users to locate information on the Internet. Typing "Barry Bonds" into the engine, for example, returns 332,000 Web pages to choose from, and "George W. Bush" yields more than 4 million.

The No. 1 ranking of Jew Watch came as a surprise to David Krane, the director of corporate communications for the San Mateo-based Web giant.

Such a page might not pop up for Google searchers in European countries, where Holocaust denial is illegal. But Krane adamantly stated that Google has no plans to manually alter the results of their ranking system to knock Jew Watch from its top spot.

"No, we don't do that. Google merely reflects what is on the Web and does its best to algorithmically rank pages. Unless [a Web page] violates a country or local law, we don't make any tweaks," he said.

So how did a hate site grab Google's top spot? Krane explained that Google's search engine discerns a site's "relevance" by the number of pages with a forwarding link to it in addition to the prominence of those sites.

While Google will not alter the results of its search engine, Krane promised to alert the firm's engineers to further refine the search algorithm, which might alter the findings for the term "Jew."

He invited users concerned about search results to contact help@google.com. User feedback is fed directly to engineers, he said.

Jonathan Bernstein, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Central Pacific Region, noted that one can find plenty of Holocaust denial Web sites by simply typing "Holocaust" into Google.

"Some responsibility for this needs to rest on our own shoulders and not just a company like Google. We have to prepare our kids for things they come across [on the Internet]," he said.

"This is part of the nature of an Internet world. The disadvantage is we see more of it and our kids see more of it. The advantage is, we see more of it, so we're able to respond to it. I'm not sure what people would want to see happen. You couldn't really ask Google not to list it.''

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