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Rights Groups Demand Google Stop Auto-Suggesting "Jew"

Mediators set to resolve dispute between Google and anti-racism groups who object to auto-complete feature suggesting "Jew."
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 5/24/2012, 2:51 PM

sketch of Google trial
sketch of Google trial
Reuters

A French judge called on a mediator to resolve a dispute between the Internet giant Google and anti-racism groups who object to the search engine suggesting that users add the word "Jew" to name searches, the AFP reported Wednesday.

In recent weeks, French anti-discriminations filed a lawsuit against Google for allegedly circulating “unsolicited and systematic associations between famous people and their Jewishness” through the search engine’s auto-complete function.

As a result of users frequently asking whether politicians, actors or other celebrities are Jewish, the word "Jew" in French is frequently suggested.

SOS Racisme, the Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) and the International League Against Racism and anti-Semitism (LICRA) argue that Google is unintentionally breaking the law.

Google users "are confronted daily by the unsolicited and almost systematic association of the word 'Jew' with the names of the best-known people in the world of politics, the media or business," the groups argued.

According to French law, it is illegal to record someone's ethnicity in a database. 

Attorney Patrick Klugman, representing SOS Racisme, said that Judge Martine Provost-Lopin accepted a request from all parties to appoint a mediator to find a solution, with a next hearing set for June 27.

"We will discuss more philosophy than law, more technical solutions than who is right or wrong," he said.

A Google France spokesman told AFP on Tuesday that auto-complete results were "generated completely automatically, based purely on algorithmic criteria that correspond notably with the popularity of web users' inputs."   

"Google does not decide on these requests in a manual way -- all requests shown by autocomplete have previously been searched for by users on Google," the spokesman said, on condition of anonymity.