Whether or not we accept former Senator Al Gore’s claim that he invented the internet — the medium by which information is transmitted throughout the world in a flash — the explosion of news and information across the globe in seconds is a relatively new technological marvel that has captivated the minds and, unfortunately, even the hearts of a significant majority of people living in this generation. Many of them had never imagined that it was possible to reach a global audience all at once, possibly because they were not privy to the major Revelation that was transmitted throughout the world instantaneously. That Revelation of course, Mattan Torah, was the world-changing event that transformed the Jewish people forever into the Am haTorah.
The advent of the internet — with all its inherent potential and dangers — has concretized the ability to reach global audiences instantaneously. It is a tragedy that the concept of worldwide transmission referred to as “www” (world wide web) has descended into its current format which has been exploited by many in a major way to become a web of deceit.
No site better represents the missed opportunity of the internet than Google, the second most popular site on the web. Recently and unilaterally, Google Maps, a sub-site within the Google galaxy, declared Palestinian statehood. With one bureaucratic fiat, Google granted the Palestinians greater legal standing (in the globe of Google) than even the United Nations did when the U.N. merely raised Palestinian status to “observer,” thereby making the Solomon family, all our neighbors in Alon Shvut and every Jew on the “wrong” side of the Green Line, part of a population transfer to the Google-declared Palestine.
This is serious business. Google logs approximately 2 billion searches a day and it is estimated that 300 million people per day use it, which is roughly the population of the United States. That is a lot of propaganda and unilateral decision making for a non-political entity. If “knowledge is power,” then even more powerful is the one providing the information accepted as knowledge, making Google a real power broker of information and perception. In the case of the Palestinians, Google perverts the term “nation building.”
Google lists its responses to a search by automatically ranking them according to advanced computer algorithms, and their official policy is that they neither approve nor disapprove of any of the results. For example, if a search is made for the word “Jew,” the site ranked highest by Google’s search engine is often for an anti-Semitic website. When Google was confronted with this perverse manipulation of its site and a petition requesting Google to remove racist and hate organizations from its results, the company said “Fortunately for the principle of free speech, Google did not capitulate to this particular demand.”
Google’s unofficial motto is “Don’t Be Evil” yet it finds common cause with the Palestinians and permits anti-Semitic hate speech. Google is PC (politically correct) on your PC (personal computer).
Facebook is another example of the danger of the web. As world’s number one website, it has more than 665 million active daily users, roughly double the population of the United States and Canada. It introduces people to numerous organizations, governmental and non-governmental, profit and non-profit. While Google can argue that due to algebraic abracadabra it cannot be held responsible for the hateful outcomes of a search, Facebook cannot hide behind the neutrality of numbers. When hate speech appears on its site it is made aware of it, because it is inundated with complaints. Within its user agreement there is a proviso stating that it may remove a page or even shut down an account: “Among other things, content that is hateful, threatening, or obscene is not allowed, nor is content that attacks an individual or group. Continued misuse of its features could result in your account being disabled.” Case in point, when a Facebook page was trying to organize a “Third Intifada,” the company responded to complaints from the Israeli government and the Anti-Defamation League and removed the page. It is shameful that it does not exercise similar reasonable controls by removing or requiring the Palestinian Authority to remove the page honoring and glorifying the terrorist who murdered Evyatar Borowsky, the 31-year old father of five who was training to be a medical clown. The Palestinian Authority has neither denounced the act nor removed the tribute to their new “hero.”
The Palestinian Authority would be foolish to claim to be unaware of such postings, having successfully prosecuted two Arab residents of the West Bank, a journalist and a student, under the statute forbidding “Cursing the President,” for their online postings. I was speaking to a contact at Palestinian Media Watch and asked about the Palestinian Authority page. She said that the page is updated constantly with anti-Israel propaganda, is of professional quality, and is highly trafficked. So it receives a great number of visits. The murderous terrorist is now a “national” and perhaps even international hero.
When the internet — Google and Facebook — disseminate falsehoods and condone the honoring of evil, I am reminded of the old Yiddish story concerning lashon hara. The Rebbe of a shtetl has the speaker of the lashon hara come to the center of town with two feather pillows and instructs him to slice both pillows open and scatter the feathers to the wind — and then to try to collect each and every feather. The task is impossible. The internet is like the split pillows with feathers everywhere, just times a “google.”
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com