Earlier this week, anthropologists noticed that Google’s search results for “Boasian Anthropology,” a branch of anthropology named after 2oth century German-American anthropologist Franz Boas, was returning a peculiar article as the top of the results.
“Boasian Anthropology is a pseudo-scientific Jewish assault on White European racial consciousness and identity,” read the featured snippet of the first article that appeared with the search results. “To put it simply, the Jewish Boasian school of Anthropology suggested wrongly, that ‘race was a social construct’ not rooted in biology or scientific determinism.”
Grand Valley State University anthropology professor Deana Weibel-Swanson and her colleague, Heather Van Wormer, noticed something was wrong and Weibel-Swanson posted about their suspicions on Facebook.
Boasian Anthropology is a widely respected branch of anthropology and not in any way a “pseudo-scientific Jewish assault” on anything. The article that was popping up at the top of Google search results was from a website called Smash Cultural Marxism, which is known for espousing anti-communist and white nationalist views, in case the phrases about race being “rooted in biology or scientific determinism” rather than social constructs didn’t make the latter clear.
As The Verge noted in an article on the issue, anthropologist Michael Oman-Reagan tweeted that the Smash Cultural Marxism article was still appearing at the top of Google search results eight hours after Weibel-Swanson posted about it.
The “bug” was eventually addressed or worked itself out.
“Google does not endorse or select responses manually,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.
“This content comes from the third-party sites that we do not control. The feature is an automatic and algorithmic match to the search query. We welcome feedback, as we’re always working to improve our algorithms. Users and content owners can give feedback on incorrect information through the ‘Feedback’ button at the bottom right of the WebAnswer.”
This week’s mix up was the second time in recent months that white nationalists seem to have somehow manipulated Google’s algorithm to get articles bumped to the top of search results.
In December, users complained that searches for “Did the Holocaust happen?” were returning an article from a neo-Nazi website as the top result. The article, titled “Top 10 reasons why the holocaust didn’t happen,” was from the website Stormfront. The first line of the featured snippet that appeared with the article at the top of the search results read, “The Holocaust Lie more than anything else keeps us down.”
Frank Boas is a late 19th and 20th century Jewish anthropologist who founded the relativistic, culture-centered… https://t.co/QOfLbJu0qD
— Leo Baeck Institute (@lbinyc) February 28, 2017
Gizmodo reported at the time that Google initially refused to take any action to have the article removed from the top of search results.
A Google spokesperson said that while the company was “saddened to see that hate organizations still exist,” it does “not remove content from [its] search results, except in very limited cases such as illegal content, malware and violations of our webmaster guidelines.”
The spokesperson also made clear that “the fact that hate sites appear in Search results does not mean that Google endorses these views.”
Previous issues with racist and anti-Semitic results populating the top of Google searches date back to 2008 at least, when a search for “Jew” would often return a hit for the website Jew Watch near the top of the results, according to Gizmodo.
When Google cofounder Sergey Brin was asked about adjusting the algorithm to prevent such results from reaching the top levels of search results, he said that would be “bad technology practice,” the Gizmodo article continues.
“An important part of our values as a company is that we don’t edit the search results,” Brin said. “What our algorithms produce, whether we like it or not, are the search results. I think people want to know we have unbiased search results.”
It is not clear if Google altered the search results for Boasian Anthropology, or if the issue corrected itself through changing search patterns.
[Featured Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]