NYT today has an overview of the ongoing JewWatch.com case. The case reveals the bind Google faces when asked to remove offensive search results, in this case, the first result for the word “Jew” is an anti-semitic site. I am sure that does not leave many “feeling lucky.”
The company, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., said it had no plans to remove the site from the search results list because it trusts its automated program to rank Web sites accurately. The search engine has been listing “Jewwatch.com” as the first-ranked site for three years.
“We find this result offensive, but the objectivity of our ranking function prevents us from making any changes,” said David Krane, a spokesman for Google, adding that an exception is made only in cases where a site is illegal. Mr. Krane said the company has, for example, removed sites from its rankings that promote pedophilia, which is illegal.
The issue here, it seems to me, is the fact that Google is taken as the first and last word on what our culture believes to be important w/r/t any given term. That jewwatch.org is the first result for “jew” seems counterintuitive to nearly everyone, and clearly offensive. But somehow it has gained the highest ranking – it is a directory, with hundreds of links. Perhaps that is one reason why…and this controversy is only giving it more links…an interesting phenomenon. (I’ve not linked to it in this post for this reason).
Links into Jewwatch.com, according to Google.
Update: Google has posted an explanation of why this occurs here…that they responded so quickly is cool, I think.