Google acts after ‘Holocaust-denial’ row

Google acts after ‘Holocaust-denial’ row

Holocaust denial is rife online. Source: Wikimedia

Google claims it is “thinking deeply” about ways to improve its search results, after criticism over how results discussing the Holocaust were ranked.

A change this week appears to be primarily a result of Google altering its algorithm. The online giant said: “Google was built on providing people with high-quality and authoritative results for their search queries. We strive to give users a breadth of diverse content from variety of sources and we’re committed to the principle of a free and open web. Judging which pages on the web best answer a query is a challenging problem and we don’t always get it right.

“When non-authoritative information ranks too high in our search results, we develop scalable, automated approaches to fix the problems, rather than manually removing these one-by-one. We recently made improvements to our algorithm that will help surface more high quality, credible content on the web. We’ll continue to change our algorithms over time in order to tackle these challenges.”

Searching for “did the Holocaust happen?” returned a top result that claimed it did not occur, the Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr reported.

The search results have now changed for US users but the page, belonging to white supremacist site Stormfront, remained top in Britain.

Google processes around 5 billion searches a day.

Search Engine Land editor Danny Sullivan said the Holocaust results were due to external groups’ attempts to influence the ordering of results.

Other controversial result ranking can affect ethnic minorities.

“I’m as horrified and disappointed by the results as many people are,” Sullivan told the BBC.

He said Google wanted to find a solution that worked across all searches, rather than just those noticed by users.

“It’s very easy to take a search here and there and demand Google change something,” said Sullivan, “and then the next day you find a different search and say, ‘why didn’t you fix that?'”

Cadwalladr questioned other rankings for questions like “are women evil?” and “are Muslims bad?”. “Are black people smart?” in the UK returned a “featured snippet” at the top saying “black people are significantly less intelligent than all other races”.

Sullivan added that it was far more common for users to search for something like “Holocaust” rather than “did the Holocaust happen?” and that the phrasing affected result rankings.

He said Bing, Microsoft’s little-used search engine, seemed to be doing “a better job” with these sorts of queries, although it was “not immune” to similar problems.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.