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Google and Islamophobia

Despite Muslim’s being overwhelmingly patriotic towards Britain, it’s alarming how few positive images of Muslims there are on the internet.

Google has a lot to answer for. Search for “British Muslims” on Google Images and the first image is a protest by extremists featuring placards carrying provocative slogans. The second image is Abu Hamza.

In fact 12 of the first 20 images returned by Google are negative, portraying Muslims as extremists or terrorists. Type “positive pictures of Muslims” into the search engine and the first 20 images includes another protest by extremists and a street fight.

Ask.com has 13 negative pictures out of 20, using the search “British Muslims”, while Yahoo! is slightly better with eight.

This serves to illustrate how a whole community is portrayed – the vast majority of the most popular articles and web pages about Muslims revolve around terrorism or extremism.

Of course, it also reflects the fact that negative stories tend to be linked to or syndicated, which increases the likelihood of those web pages being offered by search engines. Far right chatrooms tend to link to such stories.

According to Google’s search results one question that no-one, ever, has asked is “is Google Islamophobic?”  Type that phrase, in inverted commas, into Google, and you won’t find a single result.

Last month Google reacted to outrage about offensive images of Michelle Obama being returned when the First Lady’s name was searched for, by apologising and changing the way Google responded to requests for “Michelle Obama.”

In light of this, there are strong arguments for Google and other search engines, to alter the way they ‘weight’ searches for Muslims so that the internet user is not bombarded with stereotypical images that harm a whole community and faith.

By Lester Holloway

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