Lawsuit dropped as Google reaches deal over ‘Jew’ searches
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Lawsuit dropped as Google reaches deal over ‘Jew’ searches

Settlement unclear on changes to search tool that suggests users investigate celebrities' religious background

A Google employee makes a presentation at a recent tech show (Photo credit: Serge Attal/Flash90)
A Google employee makes a presentation at a recent tech show (Photo credit: Serge Attal/Flash90)

Anti-racism groups have called off a French lawsuit against Google, after reaching a deal over a tool that suggests “Jew” in searches involving celebrities.

In April, French tolerance organizations sued the Internet giant, claiming its autocomplete feature broke a French law that forbids classifying people by ethnicity. The tool, which is based on the popularity of past searches, frequently recommends the term “Jew” when users type in well-known names.

Plaintiffs alleged that the feature amounted to a massive “ethnic file” — or, in the words of a lawyer for plaintiff group SOS Racisme, “the creation of what is probably the biggest Jewish file in history.”

Details of this week’s settlement have not been released, with the groups involved declining to reveal its content. It’s unclear whether Google will change its search mechanism, but statements released
by both sides suggest that the deal may focus more on education and advocacy than on altering the search engine.

“Together with the associations, we will develop and promote projects aimed at increasing the awareness of Internet users to values of tolerance and respect,” a Google France spokesperson said.

A lawyer for Memoire 2000, one of the plaintiffs, said that the two sides had “identified areas of useful cooperation in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism that put an end to the dispute.”

However it was resolved, the aborted legal fight shows that Google users remain deeply interested in determining whether prominent individuals are Jewish.

In its write-up of the settlement, Agence France-Presse noted that as of Wednesday, “Jew” was still one of the first terms to pop up when users typed in the name of Francoise Hollande, the new (non-Jewish) president of France.

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