April 26, 2004 2:52 PM PDT

Anti-Semitic site drops off Google

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A controversial anti-Semitic site has disappeared from Google, but the search site says it had nothing to do with it.

As previously reported, the anti-Semitic site Jew Watch used to be the first item returned from a Google search on the word "Jew," a result that attracted widespread criticism and several online protest campaigns.

As of Monday, however, only an old image of the Jew Watch site could be found from a Google search on Jew, buried five pages within the search results.

Google spokesman David Krane attributed the change to a combination of timing and Web hosting policies. The account for Stormfront, a neo-Nazi site that had supported Jew Watch, apparently was canceled last week by Web hosting service EV1, and the site was inaccessible for several days.

Jew Watch has since resurfaced on another hosting service, but its downtime coincided with the periodic "crawls" Google makes to ensure that Web addresses are valid. For now, Jew Watch doesn't exist as far as Google is concerned--at least until the company does another crawl in a month or so.

"Our crawler was unable to reach the site while it was offline, so it dropped from our index," Krane said. "If they remain online over the next month, it's likely we'll pick it up again."

The outcry over the appearance of Jew Watch in Google results attracted an online petition campaign, a "Google bombing" effort to lower the site's relevance in Google rankings and a letter from U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that asked Google to alter the results.

Google responded with a notice, posted similarly to a keyword-based ad, explaining the company's position that search results are based on objective algorithms and can't be manipulated to eliminate offensive content. "The only sites we omit are those we are legally compelled to remove or those maliciously attempting to manipulate our results," according to the notice.

 

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