Google dragged into row over dangerous online content after campaigners meet Culture Secretary to lobby for crackdown on search results
Google has been dragged into the row over dangerous online content after campaigners met the Culture Secretary to lobby for a crackdown on its search results.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that antisemitism campaigners have told Oliver Dowden that Google should be included in tough new rules banning ‘legal but harmful’ content on major websites.
The Antisemitism Policy Trust (APT) is understood to have warned Dowden that Google users can find thousands of antisemitic images in searches, even when they turn on its SafeSearch setting which is meant to filter out explicit content.
Warning: Antisemitism campaigners have told Oliver Dowden that Google should be included in tough new rules banning ‘legal but harmful’ content on major websites
It said that users see pictures of a barbecue if they search ‘Jewish baby stroller’ on Google images while ‘Jewish bunk beds’ returns an image of an oven with text reading ‘Jewish bunk bed for sale’.
The Online Safety Bill, which is in draft legislation stage, will force Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to remove ‘legal but harmful’ images such as these.
Covid disinformation and material about eating disorders will by law also have to be removed, or the tech giants face billion-pound fines. However, in its current form, the Bill forces Google to take down only illegal images, such as those picturing child abuse.
This is because Google’s search function provides links to other web pages, as opposed to allowing users to post material to its site. Campaigners argue that while Google cannot control content on external sites, it could change its algorithms to block harmful images and websites appearing in searches.
Sources have said Ministers appear willing to consider changes to the Online Safety Bill. One told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There are some gaps to plug here, but it’s heading in the right direction.’
A spokesman for Google said: ‘We strive to provide open access to information while also not exposing people to potentially shocking or offensive content if they have not explicitly searched for it.
‘While SafeSearch can be used to block explicit content from search results, it is not designed to block offensive or hateful results.’
Danny Stone, of the APT, said: ‘Google’s systems have previously directed users to hateful search results about Jews, and as our report shows they still fail to adequately protect people.’
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said: ‘Our law will force Google to protect children using its search engine and stop illegal content such as antisemitic hate crime or child abuse showing up in its search results.’