Google News Bootings: Real Extremism or Just Bad Taste?

 
 
By Ben Charny  |  Posted 2006-05-23 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In the last few weeks, Google's Google News feature has banned at least three news sources that focus on ultra-conservatism and Islamic extremists, according to those running the sites.

Predictably, dropping the sites has spurred debate about hate versus free speech on the Internet.

The content Google cites is sure to be offensive to some, while relatively benign to others. In a way, the diverging opinion is at the heart of Google's challenge here: to choose an interpretation of what's appropriate that it and its audience can live with.

Two of the three Web sites booted from Google News, as expected, think Google's made the wrong move.

The New Media Journal was kicked off Google News for three news stories. One is "How Has Islam Enriched Your Life?" by syndicated columnist Arlen Peck.

In it, Peck skewers Islamic extremists with sentences such as, "It is common for the men to have multiple wives, and harvest many children with each of his wives to train for martyrdom."

Also, Peck writes, "Is it really tacky of me to smile at the nightly scenes on TV showing Arab, Afghani and Pakistani Muslims bombing mosques and killing their Muslim brothers, sisters and children at a brisk pace because that's all they know how to do?"

The Journal said it feels it did nothing wrong by running these stories.

"Something frighteningly ominous has been happening on the Internet lately: Google, without any prior explanation or notice, has been terminating its News relationship with conservative e-zines and web journals," the Journal posted on its site.

In response to Google's actions, the site's also created a kind of protest Web site listing search engines other than Google to use.

Another site recently booted from Google News was The Jawa Report, which is mainly a conduit for news from and about the Middle East. The site, very conservative in its views, disappeared from Google News listings in late March.

"I challenge Google News to find one instance of 'hate speech'," wrote Rusty Shackelford, the site's proprietor.

But in another posting, Shackelford wrote of plans to delete reader comments left under stories that "exhort the faithful to kill everyone," just not themselves, then goes on to identify at least one guilty comment provider. So did Shackelford answer his own question about where all the hate speech comes from?

Conservative electronic magazine MichNews was also reportedly booted off Google News. Again, at least three stories were the problem, including a story by J. Grant Swank Jr. that exhorts Congress to deport all Muslims.

Google didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Without Google's input, it's impossible to pinpoint the exact language, tone or any other evidence to support its position.

Google has explained to each of the sites, "We do not allow articles and sources expressly promoting hate speech viewpoints in Google News, although referencing hate speech for commentary and analysis is acceptable."

In e-mails sent to the site operators, two of which were posted on the Internet, Google invites each to clean up the sites, then reapply to be included in Google News.

 
 
 
 
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