Big Tech and Bigotry
The latest news in Big Tech bigotry was the inclusion and featuring of an offensive definition of the word “Jew” on the Google search engine. Users who typed in the word on Google would first get a verb definition based on a bigoted trope about Jews and their handling of money.
The fact was reported to Google and the definition was not handled by simply making it a secondary definition, but by removing the entry altogether. As the Anti-Defamation League reported on Twitter, “We appreciate that @Google removed an offensive definition of the word ‘Jew’ as its first dictionary entry after ADL and others reported it. There is no excuse for the first result of the word ‘Jew’ on Google to turn up an obviously antisemitic result.”
Google responded to questions on the incident: “Our apologies. Google licenses definitions from third-party dictionary experts. We only display offensive definitions by default if they are the main meaning of a term. As this is not the case here, we have blocked this & passed along feedback to the partner for further review.”
The incident was isolated to a single term and definition, but the incident is not the first. Is it censorship for Google to do this? Recent similar incidents were revealed in the Twitter Files.
Going back as far as 2017, Cloudflare, one of the world’s leading website security companies, terminated the account of the Daily Stormer, shutting down one of the preeminent neo-Nazi websites online at the time. Cloudflare’s Matthew Prince explained their decision: “Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.
“Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare.”
While teams exist in many Big Tech organizations to combat hate, bigotry and inequality on their platforms, as with Google this week, they are not able to handle it on their own and depend on users to speak up and take an active role in combating bigotry.