A new lawsuit alleges that Google's search engine has an anti-Semitism problem.
French anti-discrimination organization SOS Racisme, in association with the Union of Jewish Students of France, the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples and other organizations, is suing Google because its autocomplete feature suggests the word "Jewish" in searches involving certain public figures, including News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch and actor Jon Hamm, reports The Times of Israel.
Indeed, querying the search engine for "Jon Hamm," for example, yields "Jon Hamm Jewish" as one of the top results.
According to Google's website, its algorithm for the Google Instant autocomplete feature "predicts and displays search queries based on other users' search activities and the contents of web pages indexed by Google." In addition, the search engine says it strives to "reflect the diversity of content on the web (some good, some objectionable)" and so has a narrow set of removal policies for pornography, violence, hate speech, etc. -- though not narrow enough for SOS Racisme, it seems.
A lawyer for SOS Racisme, Patrick Kulgman, told Agence France Presse (AFP) that Google's autocomplete algorithms have resulted in "the creation of what is probably the biggest Jewish file in history," according to The Times of Israel. As an "ethnic file," this compilation is outlawed in the country.
Local reports pointed out by The Hollywood Reporter explain that the plaintiffs contend users of Google in France and across the world are systematically confronted with the unsolicited association of the term "Jew" with prominent names in the world of politics, media, and business. A hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Hollywood Reporter also writes that the last lawsuit Google saw in France due to its autocomplete feature occurred in 2009, when two French companies sued the search engine because its autocomplete feature suggested the French word for "scam" in searches for said companies' names.
Just over a month ago, a man in Japan won an injunction against Google to have the autocomplete feature turned off when someone searched the man's name. Apparently, the search engine was connecting the man's name with crimes he had not committed and, according to Japan Times, "likely played a role in the sudden loss of his job several years ago and caused several companies to subsequently reject him when he applied for new jobs."
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