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Google’s JewWatch Controversy Continues

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Has Google manually intervened on the results of the keyword “Jew”? As reported here, this particular keyword search’s top result was JewWatch.com, a site considered by many to be anti-Semitic.

A large contingent of the Jewish community was troubled by this and informed Google by way of petitions, and in one case a Googlebomb that moved JewWatch out of the first place in favor of Wikipedia.com, a Jewish historical site.

Throughout this time period, Google executives maintained stances of “search results reflect site popularity” and “Google does not manually alter search listings.” The company went as far to add an AdWord-style disclaimer at the top of the Jew keyword results page, stating that they too are troubled by the results, but reiterated that the company does not manually change search results.

Then, Friday 04/23/04 happened.

Apparently, something occurred over the weekend that appears to differ with Google’s stances. As of Friday, April 23, 2004, 6pm EST, the “Jew” keyword search brought a completely different set of search results.

Wikipedia.com holds the first position, doing exactly what its Googlebomb was designed to do, BUT, JewWatch is nowhere to be found. The controversial site is not on ANY of Google’s result pages for this particular keyword.

Thanks to SearchEngineWatch.com, some light has been shed on this situation. To read a thorough list of details about this issue, please check out Danny Sullivan’s superb article.

Danny was the first person to report JewWatch was no longer listed in the keyword results. His initial investigation actually found that the entire site was gone from Google’s index, although 175 pages of the site was found using the UK’s version of Google.

Looking for reasons why JewWatch showed up in results for foreign countries led Sullivan to two conclusions: the site had been removed from Google’s index manually and hadn’t updated the computers that serve European queries, or, Google removed the site from US searches for what could be legal reasons and let it stay on non-US searches.

The reason Google cited for JewWatch’s disappearance was that the site was down. This was confirmed by tripias.com, a blog maintained by Arthur Guray. “Apparently, the reason Jew Watch dropped from Google’s index is because their previous ISP had pulled them, and they were offline for a few days.” JewWatch was indeed down from April 16 to April 22, while they switched ISPs.

A quote from Google spokesman David Crane summarized the company’s position:

“Google did not blacklist or make any other manual change to intentionally remove the jewwatch.com website from our index. It does not currently appear in Google’s search results because the website was offline for a number of days last week. In our most recent crawl of the web, we were unable to reach the jewwatch.com website, therefore it was not included in our index. Now that the site is back up again, it’s likely that at some point soon, jewwatch.com will re-appear in Google. You’ll also find related information about the jewwatch.com website being taken offline here: http://www.removejewwatch.com.”

As of today, April 26, 2004, JewWatch is listed on Google, but not in search results for the “Jew” keyword. One obvious omission from JewWatch search results is the lack of an index page appearing on the results.

Sullivan offers an explanation, “When the entire site went down, Google may have tried to revisit the home page and couldn’t find it. This could have led to the home page being dropped. While the page was technically gone, Google could still see active links to it. Meanwhile, since the internal pages hadn’t been revisited, Google never noticed they were offline. They remained in the index.”

Google claims this is a “natural consequence of the site being down.” But if that is indeed the case, why do 175 pages of the site show up when searched, but not the index page? If the other pages have returned and/or were cached, shouldn’t the index page be showing up also?

Only Google knows for sure.

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Google’s JewWatch Controversy Continues
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