Skip to main content

Google settles 'Jew' auto-complete dispute after racism concerns

Google's auto-complete search function can be a blessing or a curse, as the company found out in April, when the Internet giant was sued by French anti-discrimination organisations.

This week, Google reached a deal via legal mitigation with the six groups who argued that Google was unintentionally breaking the law with its suggested search results that offered "unsolicited and almost systematic association" of the word "Jew" with well-known politicians, media personalities and business people, the French groups said.

Both sides came to an agreement to drop the legal complaint against Google, the AFP reported, but said there was no comment on the specifics of the deal.

Google said in an official statement that the company "supports education and information against racism and anti-Semitism," and that in association with anti-defamation groups the company "will develop and promote projects aimed at increasing the awareness of Internet users to values of tolerance and respect."

There is no word on exactly how Google plans to educate, inform, develop, and promote, but the company published an "explanation of our search results" message saying that the views expressed by the sites in a user's results are in no way endorsed by Google.

"If you recently used Google to search for the word 'Jew,' you may have seen results that were very disturbing," the note said. In an effort to right the wrong, the company explained that search results rely heavily on computer algorithms, and sometimes the subtleties of language can cause anomalies that cannot be predicted.

According to French law, it is illegal to record a person's ethnicity in a database, though searchers on tend to frequently ask whether celebrities are Jewish, so the term has become a frequent suggestion as a possible result, AFP said.

A search for French President Francois Hollande continued on Wednesday to offer the word "Jew" (or "juif" in French) as a top suggestion, according to AFP.

"Now it's likely that the great majority of searches on Google for 'Jew' are by people who have heard about this issue and want to see the results for themselves," the company said in its published statement.

Six anti-racism groups, including SOS Racisme, the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples, the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, and Memoire 2000, filed suit against Google.