- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 14, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Google isn’t carrying water for jihad. That’s what the company says, and they’re sticking to it. Still, many Internet surfers wonder: Is there something bad about Islam the Google search engine doesn’t want you to know?

Google has been accused of pandering to Muslims by censoring negative search suggestions in its main search box. Type “Christianity is” in the search bar, and Google suggests helpful endings to your query, such as “not a religion,” “a lie,” “a cult,” and so on. Google makes similar adverse suggestions for Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism, among other religions. But type “Islam is” - and all you get is a big blank bar.

Google says there is no Islamic kowtowing involved, and that the omissions are a result of a program bug. If so, the bug is pretty selective. Typing “Muslims are” gives the same blank result. A Google representative said that the company is “working to fix it as quickly as [they] can.”

There’s no concrete proof that Google is intentionally pandering to Islam, though the explicit bias in its search results might reflect the personal biases of a programmer working for the company who slipped the bug in. The results could also be another example of the peculiarities that can arise in highly complex systems that even experts do not fully understand.

There are some results that vindicate Google of the charge that it’s taking one for Allah’s team. Google video hosts Geert Wilders’ 17-minute film “Fitna,” which was widely denounced by Muslim activists for claiming to demonstrate how the Koran motivates Muslims to commit violent acts. If it were Google corporate policy to be overly sensitive to Muslim feelings, this instructional video would have been taken down long ago.

The alleged Islamic bug does not noticeably affect the results of actual Google searches. For example, if you search “Islam is a false religion,” a whopping 732,000 hits pop up. Searching “Muslims are terrorists” yields 736,000 hits. Nor does the bug defend all aspects of the Muslim religion. A search beginning “Mohammed was” will generate suggestions like “a Christian,” “a false prophet,” “a murderer” and “a fraud.” Likewise, typing in “The Koran is” generates “false,” “a lie,” “wrong” and “not the word of God.”

The future tense is likewise unaffected. Typing “Islam will be” gives two search suggestions: “defeated” or “destroyed.” For some reason, these results are notably absent for searches on Saudi Google.

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