Search suit

Google sued in France over ‘Jewish’ searches

By suggesting the term ‘Jewish’ with its autocomplete tool, the Internet giant is violating French laws against keeping ‘ethnic files,’ opponents claim

Google France
Google France

Google may have honored Israel’s 64th birthday on its homepage last week, but in France, the company is being sued for suggesting the term “Jewish” in searches involving celebrities.

SOS Racisme, a French organization that fights discrimination, is taking the Internet giant to court over a feature intended to speed up searches, but which often suggests the term “Jewish” when users type in the names of famous French people. (Google’s English sites use the same autocomplete tool, suggesting “Jewish” when you look up names including Rupert Murdoch and Jon Hamm. Neither is Jewish, but the suggestion, based on Google’s search algorithm, shows that many users are trying to find out if they are.)

Patrick Kulgman, a lawyer for SOS Racisme, told Agence France Presse that the feature amounts to “the creation of what is probably the biggest Jewish file in history.” That would be a non-issue in many countries, but France has outlawed the compilation of “ethnic files,” AFP reports.

SOS Racisme is joined in the lawsuit by France’s Union of Jewish Students and the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples, among other organizations.

“Numerous users of the premier search engine in France and the world confront daily an unsolicited and almost systematic association between the term ‘Jewish’ and the last names of prominent figures in politics, media and business,” the suit says, creating a sense of Jewish “omnipotence in the French leadership.”

Implemented by Google in 2008, the autocomplete tool is restricted in some instances. The site enforces a “narrow set of removal policies for pornography, violence, hate speech, and terms that are frequently used to find content that infringes copyrights,” the site says.

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