We have an automated system to identify and remove inappropriate or offensive material in Hot Trends. In rare cases, when such material is missed, we manually remove these results from our Hot Trends list. We apologize to any users who were offended by this situation.
So let’s see what is problematic with this entire approach. This is quite another kind of censorship. You want to believe that people are not searching for certain things, that those searching for certain things are necessarily “evil” and not merely curious, and that some people have absurd interests, and that’s not normal.
Let me be honest here. I have a morbid sense of curiosity. I have spent hours on wikipedia reading up gory details about the vaguest of things. Why exactly is my curiosity offensive to anyone? Should I pretend I am this naive person who wishes to know nothing about how immensely screwed-up people can be?
I hate Nazi sympathizers and holocaust deniers, I wouldn’t want to be friendly with them. I wouldn’t want to talk to them. I would wish copious amounts of bad luck on them. I wouldn’t want to work with them. I wouldn’t want to be kind to them. But so long as they don’t engage in hate crimes or hate speech, I cannot criminalize them; unless they actually breech someone’s rights. And I wouldn’t censor their presence. Because that misrepresents. And misrepresentation is far more dangerous than someone hating someone. Because you need to know if a certain dark cloud of hatred is descending on you. If this is symbolic of a resurgence of a particular kind of hatred – then we need to know about it, and not hide behind this curtain of political correctness. Unless you know about it, you cannot nip it in its bud.
The other issue. Google appears to decide what is offensive based on a very Euro-American centric world view. While they apologize for it, I am not sure why Google actually removes inappropriate or inoffensive material. Who decides what is offensive? How is appropriateness determined? Both of them are rather cultural constructs. So whose culture are we supposed to adhere to?
I am offended that it was manually removed from the lists. I am offended that that part of my culture is designated inappropriate. How many other things don’t we see on various lists because it’s already determined that they are offensive? Is there an open list somewhere which tells us what terms are automatically excluded? So we at least know what data we cannot expect to see…
I realize how horrendous the holocaust was. How terrible the persecution of the Jews was. How a certain symbol came to be associated with terror, death, intolerance and violence. However, that symbol also has another meaning, and it’s important for that meaning to be acknowledged as well.
PS – This was a very difficult post to write. I hate Hitler and everything he stood for. I hate the fact that the world was so oblivious to the tragedy of so many people – the Jews, the Roma, the disabled, the homosexual – and literally chose to overlook the holocaust even as it was happening. But I think certain symbols were criminalized unfairly. You cannot let one madman rewrite history. You need to take the symbol back. The fear comes from the “popular” association with the symbol, so change the popular association.