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Google Maps found to be hosting over 150 anti-Semitic reviews of Auschwitz

Guardian report finds comments, most of them anonymous, on Holocaust memorial site; tech giant acknowledges it needs ‘to do better’

The sun lights the buildings behind the entrance of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland; December 6, 2019. (Markus Schreiber/AP)
The sun lights the buildings behind the entrance of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland; December 6, 2019. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Google was found to be hosting over 150 anti-Semitic reviews for the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp on Google Maps, according to a report by the Guardian on Thursday. The tech giant has since removed most of them.

The report said 153 anti-Semitic comments were found for the memorial site on Google Maps, 93 of them made anonymously.

Posts such as “Heil Hitler” and “It’s a shame the SS was disbanded so long ago,” had been hosted for months and in some cases years, the Guardian said.

For instance, “Showers were a great experience, Anne Frankly I’m glad I came” and “Good place to go if you want to lose weight fast” had been on the service for four and nine years respectively, according to the report.

In this Sept. 24, 2019, file photo, people walk by a Google sign on the company’s campus in Mountain View, California (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Many of the reviews were left by accounts posing as infamous Nazi leaders, such as Adolf Hitler and SS commander Michael Wittmann.

The Guardian said it attempted to use Google’s “flag as inappropriate” function, yet more than 24 hours later, the majority of the 153 offending reviews remained online. After the paper contacted Google, all but two were removed.

There are nearly 7,500 reviews of the site on Google Maps. Most are respectful.

A spokesperson for Google told The Guardian that the company was “appalled by these reviews on our platform and are taking action to remove the content and prevent further abuse.

“We have clear policies that prohibit offensive and fake reviews and we work around the clock to monitor Maps. In this case, we know we need to do better and are working to evaluate and improve our detection systems,” Google added.

A picture taken on January 27, 2020 shows the barbed wire fence enclosing the memorial site of the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz during the ceremonies to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation in Oswiecim, Poland. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP)

The Auschwitz Memorial said it has long been a target for anti-Semites on Google Maps. “Our experience is that sadly, in many cases, different disturbing, anti-Semitic comments are often not removed after being reported as they ‘do not violate regulations,’” a spokesperson said.

From mid-1942, the Nazis systematically deported Jews from across Europe to six death camps — Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest Nazi death and concentration camp, and the site where the most people were killed. Victims were primarily European Jews, but also Romani, Soviet prisoners of war, and Poles.

AFP contributed to this report.

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