Dealing with “hate”

Do internet search engines have a responsibility to remove “hate”? Google’s Israel head thinks not:

Google is not the address for stopping online hate, the Israel director of the engine whose brand name is so well known that it means searching the Internet, told a conference on Monday.

Organizers of the conference from the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group that counters anti-Semitism, brought examples of anti-Jewish hate material freely available on the Internet, and participants called for more action to stop it.

But Google Israel Director Meir Brand explained his company’s free-access philosophy that puts it on the sidelines of the war against cyberhate.

“At Google, we have a bias in favor of people’s right to free expression,” he said. “Google is not and should not become the central arbiter of what does and does and does not appear on the Web. That’s for elected governments and courts to decide,” Brand said.

He said Google removes results from its search index “only when required to by law,” for example, when copyright infringement is an issue. In Germany and Austria, he said, Google removes Nazi content, which is against the law there.

Recognizing the problem, however, Google has instituted a warning system for hate entries, taking viewers to a page warning that some of the search results may be offensive, and noting that opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect Google’s views.

I think his response is the correct one. Far too many groups want “hate” speech to be removed, when it is merely opposing views, or say, for a Zionist group, material that criticises the Jewish state or denigrates Zionism. Anti-Semitism is clearly unacceptable, but if a search engine is the sole arbiter of what should and should not be online, the internet would simply offer monotone agreement. Groups like Google have a responsibility to their users, but I would feel uncomfortable with them deciding on a regular basis what I can access.

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