'Freedom of Expression' at Google Includes Anti-Semitism

Google's Israeli division, citing "freedom of expression," has rejected ideas that it try to stop anti-Semitism on the Internet.

Shauna Naghi ,

Hate messages allowed on Google
Hate messages allowed on Google

"Google is not and should not become the central arbiter of what does and does not appear on the Web. That's for elected governments and courts to decide," said Google's Israeli director Meir Brand Monday morning at a conference on terrorism and anti-Semitism in Herzliya. "We have a bias in favor of peoples' rights to free expression," he added.  He was defending Google's policy of not preventing hate sites from coming through on its search results.

The conference was organized by the Anti Defamation League (ADL), which fights the defamation of Jews. The focus of the discussions was hate on the Internet.

The ADL has repeatedly requested Google to censor its search results because of the many hate sites that it's search engine displays. For example, searching the word “Jew” results in anti-Semitic websites such as Jew Watch.
Searching the word “Jew” results in anti-Semitic websites such as Jew Watch.

Brand agrees to censor sites only when the law requires it. One such instance was in Germany when Nazi sites were removed after German law banned them. 

Brian Marcus, director of Internet monitoring for ADL North America, commented on the complications involved when censoring is left up to governments with different sets of values.  He cited Russia officials who wanted to censor Seventh Day Adventists websites which they viewed as harmful. 

Google alerts Internet users of offensive hate websites by posting an explanatory link titled "Offensive Search Results" when the hate sites come up. The explanation says that "…the views expressed by the sites in your results are not in any way endorsed by Google."

One difficulty in regulating websites is that terrorist groups change their URL (internet address) frequently, making it harder to track them.

Christopher Wolf, chairman of the International Network Against Cyberhate argued, "The law is simply one tool in the toolbox for dealing with hate speech... We [also] need the voluntary cooperation of the Internet industry."