France / 28-06-2012
Racism lawsuit against Google dropped
Is Google antisemitic? Maybe not after all, several French groups that fight racism have decided.
On Wednesday they agreed to drop a lawsuit in which they had accused the company of violating French anti-racism laws. The groups objected to the fact that Google’s autocomplete feature suggests the term “juif,” or “Jewish,” as one of the top choices in connection with the names of many public figures - including the likes of Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp.
The terms of the settlement are confidential, and Google declined to say whether it would make any changes in the autocomplete feature. Google did agree to work with the groups that had sued it to develop educational projects against racism and antisemitism.
“Together with the associations, we will develop and promote projects aimed at increasing the awareness of Internet users to values of tolerance and respect,” the company said. The groups said the agreement, which came after court-ordered mediation, would lead to “fruitful cooperation” with Google.
The groups, which include SOS Racisme and the French Union of Jewish Students, had argued that autocomplete, by suggesting the term “juif,” perpetuated stereotypes and advanced racist ideas about Jewish conspiracies.
Google has said the autocomplete terms are generated automatically, by an algorithm that takes into account the frequency of searches that link different terms, so any racism is embedded in society, not the company’s servers.
The French groups’ complaint was not the first involving autocomplete. Among other cases, a Japanese man this year secured an injunction requiring Google to remove certain terms from the function, which he said was linking him to crimes he had not committed.