Google under fire for anti-Semitic search results in Sweden

Internet giant to take action after search for ‘Holocaust’ links to site listing names, pictures of Swedish Jews

Logos of US multinational technology company Google, on December 28, 2016, in Vertou, western France. (AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE)
Logos of US multinational technology company Google, on December 28, 2016, in Vertou, western France. (AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Google on Monday said it was taking measures to address criticism against the internet giant for allowing the spread of anti-Semitic propaganda through various search results, which had triggered outrage in Sweden.

A search on Google for the Holocaust showed an anti-Semitic blog post high up containing information about Jews who currently live in Sweden. With their names, pictures and occupations listed, dozens of them were described in a humiliating and threatening manner, according to local media.

Searches for the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement’s propaganda website also appeared as news with “top stories from,” as seen on searches for media organizations, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported.

“We are aware of this and are taking measures,” Farshad Shadloo, spokesman at Google in Sweden, told AFP, without providing any details.

Dagens Nyheter reported that the company has adjusted its algorithms to change this specific news search function.

“Sometimes, search results that both we and users find offensive can show up. But there are also concerns about suppressing material based on personal opinion,” Google’s Sweden branch said on Twitter.

“We must, like everyone else, comply with the law.”

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center said it may raise the issue with Google, and also call on Swedish authorities to reconsider laws on hate speech.

‘Freedom of opinion’

The Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism likened the offensive blog post to Nazis preparing lists on Jews during World War II.

“This list is one of an old classical tradition, that Nazis and anti-Semites prepare lists so that when the political climate changes, they know who to pick, who to send away, who to kill,” the committee’s chair Svante Weyler told the Swedish daily Expressen.

Google, which owns YouTube, also faced scrutiny in recent days for allowing the Nordic Resistance Movement to share a video of one of its members, even though he was convicted of inciting hatred against minorities, Expressen said.

Morgan Johansson in Stockholm October 3, 2014. (CC BY-SA Frankie Fouganthin, Wikimedia Commons)

The video is no longer available via the search engine.

The issue has sparked a heated debate about pressuring major technology companies to limit offensive material that is accessed online.

“They’re letting illegal material stay. We cannot allow it,” Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson told public broadcaster SVT.

“We have freedom of opinion. But Nazism is not an opinion; it’s a crime against humanity.”

With nearly 200 members, the Nordic Resistance Movement, founded in 1997, is described as the most violent neo-Nazi organisation in Sweden by Swedish anti-racism magazine Expo.

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