Jewish children, survivors of Auschwitz, Poland, February 1945. Photograph: Getty Images
Lilian Black, chair of The Holocaust Survivors Friendship Association, and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, called it appalling. Im so shocked. Google has a responsibility for its actions. Its almost like saying we know that the trains are running into Birkenau, but were not responsible for whats happening at the end of it. They shape peoples thinking and are disparaging the memory of people like my grandparents who were gassed.
More than that, its where this leads. Its about its relevance today as much as the past. Our learning centre is in Kirklees, where Jo Cox was murdered. What is the matter with people? Cant they see where this leads? And to have a huge worldwide organisation refusing to acknowledge this. Thats what they think their role is? To be a bystander? To just stand by? Theyre committing a hate crime, in my view.
A Google spokesman said: The goal of search is to provide the most relevant and useful results for our users. Clearly, we dont always get it right, but we continually work to improve our algorithms.
This is a challenging problem, and something were thinking deeply about in terms of how we can do a better job. Search is a reflection of the content that exists on the web. The fact that hate sites appear in search results in no way means that Google endorses these views.
Frank Pasquale, professor of law at Maryland University, a leading expert on algorithmic accountability, called it gross hypocrisy. They frequently say that Google search is not just about giving you a list of sources, but rather to answer your question. And empirically speaking, people tend to treat Google like an authority. So this is an appalling shirking of responsibility. Its about money. It always is. The commercial imperative trumps all other aims at the company, including moral ones.
The issue is not that Google is refusing to edit the results about the Holocaust, the deeper question is about why Stormfront is number one. Google said: We handle billions of queries every day and our goal is to give you the most relevant answer to your query as quickly as possible. The issue you have raised is one where we are very unhappy with the quality of the results.
While it might seem tempting to fix the results of an individual query by hand, that approach does not scale to the many different variants of that query and the queries that we have not yet seen. So we prefer to take a scaleable algorithmic approach to fix problems, rather than removing these one by one.
But Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, and a leading expert on search, in an article that was largely sympathetic to the challenge facing Google, still noted: Its bizarre that something like that Holocaust denial post is showing tops in Google. It has no great number of links pointing at it, according to a Moz tool I used [a method of examining where a website links to]. The Wikipedia page below it should carry far more authority.
And he suggests a reason why it doesnt: that Google has changed its algorithm to reward popular results over authoritative ones. For the reason that it makes Google more money.
If Stormfront is back at number one when you read this, its because Ive run out of funds. Each click through costs 1.12 and I have a 200 per day limit. @carolecadwalla on Twitter for more information.