A recent search of “Jewish baby stroller” on Google returns images of portable ovens which allude to the Holocaust, an allegation it denies, saying it is looking into the search results with a view to improving them.
It acknowledged the presence of the “hateful memes” on its search engine and apologized over the image results, saying they “don’t reflect our opinions. We try to show content matching all key terms searched for, as people normally want.
But for “data voids” like this, it can be problematic. For “baby strollers”, there’s lots of helpful content. For this, there’s not. That’s not surprising. It’s not likely a topic normally searched for, nor an actual product that’s marketed. There’s a “void” of good content to surface that matches what was asked for.”
That is Google’s explanation on the issue. “It’s not meant as an excuse. We’ve done considerable work with improving data void situations & finding systematic improvements. We’ll look at this situation to see how we can further improve,” the firm’s Public Liaison for Search, Israel Figa, said.
Israel Figa rejected calls for removal, adding that they have no policy that covers removal of such content but would work to improve search results to surface more helpful content. “That’s a scalable solution that allows us to improve results not just for one situation but many. These images may also be removed if the hosting sites themselves remove them. At least one has already done that.”
Researchers, however, disagree. They ruled out the possibility of an accident and suspected a coordinated extremist campaign on a fringe website to produce those specific images.
‘Jewish Baby Stroller’ Search Results Manipulated to Spread Anti-Semitism
Similar images appeared in search results as far back as 2017 when a series of posts pairing images of ovens on wheels with the term “Jewish baby stroller” were found online, but Friday’s results only drew attention.
The director of hate speech research firm the Network Contagion Research Institute, Joel Finkelstein, believes that posting that specific term next to the image may have manipulated Google’s search algorithm, such that it promoted those images when users search the term, according to JTA.
The publishers “trick Google into putting that stuff up top” by pasting the image with the words so that when you search those words, the image comes to the top.
Anti-Semites make oven references in allusion to Jews in the crematoria Nazis used to burn the bodies of Holocaust victims.