Google searches on the internet about Muslims and Islam have been modified in order to comply with requests from Muslim activists to tamp down criticism of the religion and its adherents. While in the past, Google users seeking information about Islam and Muslims would see prominent results that some Muslims see as fostering Islamophobia.
First page results for Google searches for such Muslim terms as “jihad”, “shariah” and “taqiyya” now provide definitions and explanations more amenable to the former critics of Google. In a recent blog post, Google noted that it is working to push back on what it called “offensive or clearly misleading content.” The web search giant noted:
“To help prevent the spread of such content for this subset of queries, we’ve improved our evaluation methods and made algorithmic updates to surface more authoritative content,” it said.
Imam Omar Suleiman told the Anadolu news agency, which is based in Turkey, has argued that Google and similar companies have a responsibility to combat “hate-filled Islamophobia” similar to how they work to suppress Muslim terrorist organizations such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. Suleiman said Google should draw a distinction between “criticism of Islam and hate-filled Islamophobia.”
“Google does not need to silence criticism of Islam and honest discussions about Islam, but heavily funded hate groups that are able to work the SEOs to get their websites showing up on the first, second page – I think that’s deeply problematic,” said Suleiman, who was referring to search engine optimization, whereby websites are able to improve their placement in search engine results.
Google told Anadolu Agency it does not seek to remove content from its platform simply because it is unsavory or unpopular, but does its best to prevent hate speech from appearing.
The Council on Islamic American Affairs (CAIR) has claimed that Islamophobic activity has spiked over the last year. Such an increase in so-called hate crimes targeting Muslims requires combating misinformation about Islam, noted CAIR. Internet, radio, and television, argue CAIR and Suleimen, play a role in fomenting hatred of Muslims. “We are seeing a rise in hate crimes towards Muslims, and there is a direct connection between this demonization of Islam and Muslims and the hate crimes that are being perpetuated against Muslims in the United States,” Suleiman said.
“It’s a fair ask that when someone goes to Google they are not being presented with information from hate groups, and representatives of the faith, as well as respectable academics... as if they’re all on the same playing field. We’re not on the same playing field.”