Google is not the address for stopping online hate, the Israel director of the engine whose brand name is so well known that it means searching the Internet, told a conference on Monday.
Organizers of the conference from the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group that counters anti-Semitism, brought examples of anti-Jewish hate material freely available on the Internet, and participants called for more action to stop it.
But Google Israel Director Meir Brand explained his company's free-access philosophy that puts it on the sidelines of the war against cyberhate.
"At Google, we have a bias in favor of people's right to free expression," he said. "Google is not and should not become the central arbiter of what does and does and does not appear on the Web. That's for elected governments and courts to decide," Brand said.
He said Google removes results from its search index "only when required to by law," for example, when copyright infringement is an issue. In Germany and Austria, he said, Google removes Nazi content, which is against the law there.
Recognizing the problem, however, Google has instituted a warning system for hate entries, taking viewers to a page warning that some of the search results may be offensive, and noting that opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect Google's views.
The problem with using law to combat hate speech online is that "technology changes so quickly," said Brian Marcus, director of Internet monitoring for ADL North America. By the time the law is amended to prohibit certain sites, he said, those sites have changed names and addresses.
"The law is simply one tool in the toolbox for dealing with hate speech," said Christopher Wolf, chairman of the International Network Against Cyberhate. "We (also) need the voluntary cooperation of the Internet industry."
"I applaud the efforts of Google," he said, but he called for more. He said social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have been accused of hosting racist and religiously offensive content, and that must be dealt with.
Avi Aviv, head of the Israeli police computer crimes unit, said "the law has not yet adapted to the many types of cybercrime," including hate speech that leads to violent acts.
"The traditional 'scene of the crime' is changing," Aviv said. "In the past there were street gangs (who) rumbled. Today, these rumbles take place on the Internet."