Google asks its employees to “Do the right thing.” At least, that’s what its revised 2015 motto states in an upgrade from the original company maxim, “Don’t be evil.”
But when a user searches Google for information on Islam, the results often link to propaganda, anti-Muslim hate and outright lies. The algorithm for the world’s largest search engine is definitely not doing the right thing ― especially when it comes to the first page of results, where most users stop their searches.
Basic searches for words like “Muslim” and “Islam” return reasonable results with links to reputable sites. But more specific terms, like “sharia,” “jihad” or “taqiyya” ― often co-opted by white supremacists ― return links to Islamophobic sites filled with misinformation.
The same thing happens with the autofill function. If a user types in “does islam,” the first suggestion that pops up to complete the query is “does islam permit terrorism.” Another egregious example occurs when a user inputs “do muslim.” The autofill results include “do muslim women need saving.”
There are endless possibilities for misinformation, and the consequences are disturbing.
“Ninety percent of people don’t make it past the first page,” Heidi Beirich, a project director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told HuffPost. “It’s miseducating millions, if not billions of people on many subjects.”
Indeed, there is a distinct correlation between anti-Muslim searches and anti-Muslim hate crimes, according to researchers.
The result? At the extreme end of the spectrum, white supremacists commit heinous acts of violence, like in Portland, Oregon and Tulsa, Oklahoma. But more commonly and perhaps more nefariously, such searches normalize a culture of fear, leading to the harassment of hijab-wearing teenagers and 7-Eleven store clerks.
But Omar Suleiman, a Muslim American imam from Dallas and founder of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, has a plan to take on Google.
Suleiman and his team have been publishing reports on controversial topics in Islam ― like jihad ― in the hopes of influencing the search algorithm. His goal is to flood the search results with accurate information on Islam.
Suleiman, 30, realized a few years ago that there was a dire need for factual information during the rise of the self-described Islamic State, when he noticed how right-wing groups were equating ISIS’s language with the beliefs of the world’s entire Muslim population.
One of Suleiman’s most popular reports is on the Islamic idea of taqiyya, a term Islamophobes and white supremacists have appropriated and exploited to accuse Muslims of lying to non-Muslims for a sinister objective like taking over the world.
Suleiman explains in the report that taqiyya is actually a centuries-old concept that permits a Muslim to conceal his or her faith when under the threat of persecution. Applied more commonly by the minority Shia sect of Islam, taqiyya is rarely, if not ever, applicable to modern-day Muslims.
Because it is an Arabic word, Islamophobes use the word “taqiyya” solely to instill fear, Suleiman told HuffPost. It’s a foreign-sounding word from a religion that’s perceived as foreign, and it sends “chills down the spines of well-meaning but woefully misinformed patriotic Americans wary of those turban-wearing bearded foreigners, right? What could possibly go wrong?” Suleiman wrote in the report.
The Yaqeen Institute has also published reports on honor killings, stoning and jihad, all topics Islamophobes constantly twist to degrade Islam and Muslims.
But taking on the internet is not easy, and may not even be possible.
Suleiman’s report on taqiyya doesn’t come up until the second page of Google search. The first link that appears on the first page, an article from meforum.org, may appear legitimate, but the Middle East Forum is actually an Islamophobic “think tank” and website that “promotes American interests in the Middle East and protects Western values from Middle Eastern threats.” TheReligionOfPeace.com and Billionbibles.org are other anti-Muslim websites whose articles appear on the first page.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a similar ― and arguably worse ― problem when users search for the term “sharia.”
Factual content about Islam “in basic searches often gets choked off by anti-Muslim propaganda,” writes Alex Amend, digital media director at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
However, there is precedent for Google to make a change. The company removed the “are Jews evil” autofill suggestion late last year, and apologized for mistakenly tagging African-Americans as “gorillas” in the search feature of the Google photos app.
“We’re appalled and genuinely sorry that this happened,” a company spokeswoman said at the time. “There is still clearly a lot of work to do with automatic image labeling, and we’re looking at how we can prevent these types of mistakes from happening in the future.”
Earlier this year, YouTube, which is owned by Google, announced a new set of policies that target offensive content that doesn’t necessarily violate the company’s guidelines. The policy includes burying the videos and not attaching them to any advertising. Videos that promote the subjugation of religions or races without outright inciting violence, such as by targeting Islam, would be covered by this policy.
Google announced in a blog post in April, that they were going to “surface more high-quality content from the web,” and offer users the opportunity to report inappropriate content. But with tens of thousands of pages “coming online every minute of every day,” the post read, clearly they are facing an uphill battle.
Beirich says Google’s actions so far are not enough.
“Google’s algorithm is seriously flawed and it’s a scary thing, because millions of people around the world are using it,” she said. “It’s a fundamental problem with how search works.”
We are teaching [people] reasons to hate black people, Jews, Muslims and [other] minorities.
Heidi Beirich, project director for the Southern Poverty Law Center
Beirich points to the case of white supremacist Dylann Roof, who went “from being someone who was not raised in a racist home to someone so steeped in white supremacist propaganda that he murdered nine African-Americans during a Bible study.”
“We are teaching [people] reasons to hate black people, Jews, Muslims and [other] minorities,” Beirich said.
The SPLC has brought its concerns to Google, but says it has yet to see substantial action.
A Google spokeswoman told HuffPost she had “nothing to add” when asked about the harmful search results.
Despite the odds stacked against Suleiman, he is hopeful. He is also aware that Yaqeen has nothing close to the $57 million network fueling Islamophobia, both online and offline, in the United States.
“The prize of Islamophobes is the hearts and minds of people,” Suleiman said. “What we need to continue to do is to discredit these people and their agendas.”
America does not do a good job of tracking incidents of hate and bias. We need your help to create a database of such incidents across the country, so we all know what’s going on. Tell us your story.
This story has been updated to include information about how to report inappropriate content to Google.
-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
It is where Donald Trump’s reality-TV persona from “The Apprentice” meets his presidency that he can make the most significant difference for the “left behind” constituencies that voted for him. Last week, President Trump issued an executive order calling for the doubling of funding for apprenticeship grants in the United States ― a key area, like infrastructure, where a consensus can be built across America’s divided politics.
In an interview with The WorldPost this week, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers makes Trump’s case: “We don’t do anything for people who don’t go to college. They are left to either sink or swim, and mostly they sink. I’m thinking here of the kind of vocational apprentice arrangements that Germany has implemented successfully.” Summers also argues for international economic policies that benefit the average person more than the global corporations, such as closing tax loopholes and shutting down tax havens as a priority over securing intellectual property protection for pharmaceutical companies. “Right now,” he says, “when we discuss the global economy, we mainly talk about things that improve ‘competitiveness’ and are painful to the regular worker.”
Alongside greater investment in public higher education, on-the-job vocational training is essential to creating workforce opportunities not only in a global economy, but, more importantly, when faced with the perpetual disruptions of digital capitalism. As economist Laura Tyson points out, “about 80 percent of the loss in U.S. manufacturing jobs over the last three decades was a result of labor-saving and productivity-enhancing technological change, with trade coming a distant second.” Constantly adjusting to an ever-shifting recomposition of the knowledge-driven innovation economy is only possible if skills remain aligned to the needs of employers.
Brookings Institution policy analyst Mark Muro thinks the president managed to get the big things right with his executive order. “In noting that a four-year college degree isn’t for everyone,” Muro writes, “he spoke reasonably about the potential of paid, hands-on workplace experiences that train workers and link them to employers. In addition, Trump rightly underscored the need for industry — rather than the government — to play the largest role in structuring those experiences.” Tamar Jacoby, president of Opportunity America, a Washington-based nonprofit working to promote economic mobility, concurs that industry, not government, knows best what skills they need. “After more than two years of unlikely promises — to restore coal mining, end offshoring and recreate the manufacturing jobs of a bygone era,” writes Jacoby, “the president is finally focusing on a solution that could make a difference for the working-class voters who elected him: skills.”
Writing from Munich on her way to an international gathering on apprenticeships, Jobs for the Future’s Nancy Hoffman emphasizes that the most successful programs “combine structured learning in a workplace with credit-bearing community college course-taking so that a student arrives at completion of the apprenticeship not just with job-related skills, but with a useable transferable credential as well.” Joshua Pearce, who heads Michigan Tech’s Open Sustainability Technology Lab, completes the picture. “A relatively minor investment in retraining,” he says, “would allow the majority of coal workers to switch to solar-related positions.”
But not everyone is completely on board. McKinsey & Company’s Mona Mourshed offers a cautious note: only around 30 percent of youth employment programs have proven effective, according to World Bank estimates. “The hallmarks of an effective program,” she writes, “are employer engagement, a practice-based curriculum, student support services and a commitment to measuring results post-program.”
Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek is even more skeptical that the U.S. can replicate the successful German model of apprenticeship, because failing K-12 schools in America are not providing young people entering the workforce with the requisite cognitive skills to effectively prepare them for an uncertain future.
Bolstering vocational apprenticeship programs in the U.S. is imperative to enabling non-college-educated Americans to find work in a continually churning economy. But, clearly, much work will have to be done to realize that imperative itself.
Other highlights in The WorldPost this week:
Asian ‘Boat People,’ Once Opposed More Than Syrian Refugees Today, Speak Out
The Fastest-Growing Refugee Crisis Is The One You’ve Probably Heard The Least About
How Obama Won The French Election
It’s Been A Long, Crazy Year Since Britain’s Shocking Brexit Vote
How The British Media Helps Radicalize People Against Islam
Here’s What Happens When A President Doesn’t Have A Clear Foreign Policy
WHO WE ARE
EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Rosa O’Hara is the Social Editor of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is News Director at HuffPost, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s news coverage. Nick Robins-Early and Jesselyn Cook are World Reporters.
EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media), Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).
VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS: Dawn Nakagawa.
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.
The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.
Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.
ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as theAdvisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail and Zheng Bijian.
From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.
The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.
We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.
-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Mark Zuckerberg is a famous dude and, as fans do with anyone who is famous, they like to show their appreciation in ... inventive ways.
One particular fan of the Zuck decided to really nail down her love for the Facebook founder. On Thursday, Zuckerberg shared a manicured hand on his Instagram that features the Facebook logo, the “heart” and “like” reactions, and, naturally, Zuck’s likeness.
Whether he was more enamored or surprised by the gesture isn’t known, but he definitely liked it enough to share:
A post shared by Mark Zuckerberg (@zuck) on Jun 22, 2017 at 4:58pm PDT
The image is accompanied by a caption that indicates this is the first time Zuck’s seen something like this and the hashtag #fcs2017.
Most likely, this Zuck-adorned hand belongs to someone who showed up at the Facebook Group Summit in Chicago (which is what the #fcs2017 denotes), but it’s still unclear whose hand it actually is.
A post shared by Mark Zuckerberg (@zuck) on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:36am PDT
We just hope whoever those nails belong to gets a whole lotta likes on their Facebook posts. They’ve earned it. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
We spend a lot of time each day looking at, tweeting, and texting emoji, but few of us get paid to do so. Keith Broni, on the other hand, makes his living doing just that.
Last December, London-based translation company Today Translations put out a call for an “emoji translator.” The job listing made news, partly because of its novelty — it’s believed to be the first role of its kind — and partly because it just sounds like so much fun. Who doesn’t want to spend their day looking at emoji?
Today Translations received over 500 applications, and the interview process took five months, but Broni emerged as the winning candidate. You can’t major in emoji translation (at least, not yet), but Broni’s educational background does complement the role. The Irishman graduated from University College London with a Master’s degree in business psychology. His dissertation, which was entitled using only emoji, looked at the ways that consumer behavior can influence how we perceive emoji in combination with various brand names.
Broni’s passion for emoji — a job requirement, obviously — is so strong that he organized Europe’s first Emoji Spelling Bee, in which contestants were given a limited amount of time to convert a phrase into emoji. When Today Translations posted the job, multiple friends sent Broni the listing, recognizing that it was a natural fit for a man whose days were already defined by hearts, smileys, and thumbs-up icons.
The interview process began with a short emoji test, asking applicants to decipher the meanings of some emoji combinations, as well as write a few sentences exclusively in emoji. The test was followed by a phone interview and then a presentation on what a handbook for using emoji might look like.
The job, as fun as it might seem, is far more complicated than it sounds. “The hardest things I’ve had to translate are ones where the intention is for it to be highly universal,” Broni explains during a phone interview with Refinery29. Even though emoji are often referred to as the new universal language, meanings can vary widely from one culture to the next. Take the thumbs up emoji.
“It’s very popular in the West, and is the ubiquitous Facebook icon, but in the Middle East it’s equivalent to an offense, like giving someone the middle finger,” Broni says.
The same goes for the A-Okay hand gesture, which Broni says can be very offensive in Latin America. Even the basic happy face isn’t so basic. In China, Broni says it’s often used to convey that you’re finished, or done with a conversation.
Even though emoji are often referred to as the new universal language, meanings can vary widely from one culture to the next.
Another element that complicates emoji interpretation is which device you’re using to view the icons. Since smartphone makers such as Samsung and Apple are allowed to design their own, system-appropriate renditions of the characters, how they appear can differ if you’re using one type of phone to send an emoji to a friend with another type of phone. On Samsung phones, for example, Broni says that the rolling eyes emoji looks slightly hopeful, while the smirking face looks more “meh” and less flirty than it does on iOS. Let this be a word to the wise: You might want to rethink texting an emoji after a first date, given the potential for some major misinterpretation.
Broni’s job is create an etiquette guide breaking down not only the meanings of individual emoji in different cultures, but also the meanings of strings of emoji together and emoji variations across devices. It’s a monumental task and one that, if done incorrectly, has the potential to incite social outrage.
The introduction of new emoji every year means Broni will need to constantly update any guide he creates. “I’m most fascinated to see how they impact the usage trends of preexisting emoji,” Broni says of the upcoming release of Emoji 5.0. “Will mind-blown become the new emoji synonym for wow instead of the current mouth wide open emoji?”
The new emoji are already available on Twitter, but we’ll likely need to wait until they come to iPhones this fall to understand how they’re used more broadly. [Insert angry face emoji here.]
Unfortunately, Today Translations hasn’t put out a call for another emoji translator yet. Still, you might want to start prepping now should the opportunity arise again. In the meantime, you should probably avoid inserting emoji into upcoming job applications. Though Broni says the icons have become acceptable as their popularity grows, they’re still rarely deemed appropriate in formal communications. Best to stick with the tried and true guidelines and save the (IRL) smiley face for your in-person interview.
By: Madeline Buxton -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.