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Google, democracy and the truth about internet search
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-12-06 00:13:50

Here's what you don't want to do late on a Sunday night. You do not want to type seven letters into Google. That's all I did. I typed: "a-r-e". And then "j-e-w-s". Since 2008, Google has attempted to predict what question you might be asking and offers you a choice. And this is what it did. It offered me a choice of potential questions it thought I might want to ask: "are jews a race?", "are jews white?", "are jews christians?", and finally, "are jews evil?"

Are Jews evil? It's not a question I've ever thought of asking. I hadn't gone looking for it. But there it was. I press enter. A page of results appears. This was Google's question. And this was Google's answer: Jews are evil. Because there, on my screen, was the proof: an entire page of results, nine out of 10 of which "confirm" this. The top result, from a site called Listovative, has the headline: "Top 10 Major Reasons Why People Hate Jews." I click on it: "Jews today have taken over marketing, militia, medicinal, technological, media, industrial, cinema challenges etc and continue to face the worlds [sic] envy through unexplained success stories given their inglorious past and vermin like repression all over Europe."

Hatred, lies, and stupidity spread easily on the internet - it's a perfect storm of the ease of technology and - very bluntly put - the stupidity of people. Most people have absolutely no understanding of the scientific method, and lack the basic mental tools to objectively assess information and its source. The end result is swaths of people believing that the moon landings were faked, man-made climate change isn't real, that witches have magical powers and need to be burnt at the stake, or - indeed - that Jews, women (try it!), and so on are "evil", because uncle Jimmy's neighbour's aunt's niece thrice removed posted it on Facebook.

This is a problem that's going to be very tough to solve. Stupid people have always existed - but the internet is new.

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