Google has said it “must do better” to remove what activists called “disgusting” and “grotesque” anti-Semitic content following a Guardian investigation.
More than 150 anti-Semitic comments were discovered on the Google Maps site for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where the Nazis killed 1.1 million people, the vast majority Jews.
Google’s review tool, attached to its Maps service, invites users to rate locations on a scale of one to five stars, prompting a review written with the message: “Tell us what you liked about this place.” . This function applies to the extermination camp in the southern Polish city of Oświęcim, also known by its German name. Auschwitz, which has been operating as a museum since 1947.
Anitsemite publications, such as “Heil Hitler” and “It’s a shame the SS has disbanded so long ago,” have been hosted on Google for months, in some cases years. The comments “Showers were a great experience, Anne Frank, glad I came” and “Good place to go if you want to lose weight fast” had been on the site for four and nine years respectively.
At least 96 of the posts were made by anonymous users, with some posing as others, such as Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, Australian serial killer Ivan Milat, SS commander Michael Wittmann, and Adolf Hitler. More than a dozen of the posts were made by a “local guide,” a title that Google provides to users upon request.
The option to report an offensive review to Google is available through its “flag as inappropriate” feature. However, more than 24 hours after The Guardian reported 153 offensive reviews to Google, most remained online.
The Auschwitz Memorial spokesperson said its Google reviews page had long been a target for anti-Semites: “Our experience is that sadly, in many cases, different anti-Semitic and disturbing comments are often not removed after being reported, as they ‘do not violate the regulations’ “.
Karen Pollock, Executive Director of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “These comments are disgusting. Google must take responsibility for the hate that is shared on its site and take steps to monitor and remove such obnoxious content, and improve and change its moderation and policies. “
All offensive reports were sent to the Community Security Trust, a charity that supports Jews experiencing anti-Semitism with security councils, and a spokesperson said: “These so-called ‘reviews’ of Auschwitz are grotesque and there is absolutely no justification for them Google does not remove them.
“It is sadly predictable that the inclusion of Auschwitz will attract anti-Semitic comments and Google should have systems to address this.”
They added: “Unfortunately [Google’s] Failure to do so is yet another example of the need for effective regulation through the online damages bill. It is clear that the existing policies of the platforms are not working. “
Jo Stevens, the shadow secretary for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS), also called for political and legislative changes. “This is completely unacceptable. Google has the technology to prevent anti-Semitic hate from being posted and to remove it if it hits their site. This vile content on their platform helps spread dangerous beliefs and emboldens racists. “
He reiterated Labor calls for the online safety bill to “include significant criminal penalties and financial fines” and blamed the government for the delays in this new law: “The Conservatives have broken their promise to introduce legislation, late after delay and have already watered down their original proposals after pressure from big technology. “
A DCMS spokesperson said the online safety bill “will hold technology platforms accountable for addressing and removing illegal content, such as anti-Semitic comments. We will impose tough penalties, including huge fines, if they don’t act. ”It is not yet known when this bill will reach parliament.
A Google spokesperson said: “We are dismayed by these reviews on our platform and are taking steps to remove the content and prevent further abuse.
“We are clear policies prohibiting offensive and false reviews and we work day and night to monitor Maps. In this case, we know we have to do better and we are working to evaluate and improve our detection systems.“
At the time of writing, all but two of the offensive reviews had been removed.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism