Poor old Google’s been taking quite some flak lately regarding the way its search results are censored. And they are censored; here Seth Finkelstein explains how a UK paedophile site and German race hate sites are excluded (but only from the country specific search engines).
I was surprised to read Seth’s article (found through a Google search) after reading Google’s explanation as to how searches for ‘Jew’ lead to hate sites. Here they blame objective technology and the fact that ‘Jew’ (singular) tends to be spat in hate, while those looking for Jewish stuff will use ‘Jewish’, ‘Judaism’ etc. Google was genuinely taken aback by the storm over Gmail after stupidly saying it would read e-mail to serve ads. They know they mean no harm and I sort of accept that.
Naïvety is a trait Google seems to have in abundance, but it didn’t stop them censoring my AdWord campaign when they felt their commercial interest was threatened. See if you can spot the offensive phrase here: ‘pr-consultant.co.uk This domain name is for sale click here to express interest.’ It was nine days before Google spotted it and halted the campaign, which implies a human censor is at work. Redundant phrases compromise advertising effectiveness and with Google paid by the click through ads must be effective. I’m not free to word my ad as I choose; I must take Google’s commercial interests into account. ‘Click here’ is banned because it could be used for anything. I won’t lose sleep over the re-wording, but Google doesn’t give similar consideration to the interests of Jews.
Google’s naïvety doesn’t end here. They apparently refused ads for anti-Bush playing cards because they ‘advocate against an individual’, most likely because a poorly trained censor doesn’t know the difference between satirising a politician and supporting hate crime. (Anti-Kerry merchandise has escaped censorship.) Yet, I still don’t believe any of this is malicious, only that Larry and Sergey never thought this stuff through; they’re in the mould of that long tradition of scientists failing to see the socio-political implications of their inventions.