Google didn’t need to delete the anti-Semitic (((Echo))) app

Published by The Independent on 09/06/16

screengrabAnti-Semitism is all the rage these days. From the emergence of far-right parties across Europe to our very own Labour party, we are constantly warned that life as a Jew is becoming rather unpleasant.

Most recently, animosity towards the Jewish people has extended into the cyber sphere. An anti-Semitic app available to download on Google Chrome has made its way into the public sphere after Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor for the New York Times, raised questions about why Twitter trolls were referring to him as (((Weisman))).

He had just tweeted about an article criticising GOP candidate Donald Trump titled “This is how fascism comes to America”.

It became clear that certain users had downloaded a “Coincidence Detector” which automatically surrounded Jewish names written on the internet in parentheses. ‘Israel’ automatically reads as (((Our Greatest Ally))). Users of the app consequently used the symbol to denote a Jewish subject online.

Having been born into a Jewish family, I’m not particularly surprised. To be honest, the most offensive element of the app is its shameful appropriation of that fantastic grammatical tool: the parenthesis.

By highlighting the presence of Jewish names, the app intends to make users aware of Jewish involvement in the media. According to its creators, the chosen people have secretly masterminded to take over the world. Given the apparent ignorance of the schmucks who created the “Coincidence Detector”, it wouldn’t be surprising if their deeply-held fear was correct.

Perhaps I’m being harsh. The algorithm used by the app was pretty clever. Anti-Semites who use the detector’s use of parentheses are almost untraceable given that search engines tend to exclude punctuation from their search results.

Anyhow, Google decided that it no longer wanted to host the extension and promptly removed it from its store by appealing to “hate speech”. Given that Google is private company, it had every right to withdraw a component of its search engine that may affect the reputation of its business.

But was it necessary? The Twittersphere’s reaction suggests not. Rather than needing to be shielded from anti-Semitic users, people actively chose to track them down and expose their prejudiced convictions.

Jewish users reacted with the best two-fingered response Twitter has ever seen. They promptly edited their usernames to include the symbol that was previously being used against them. Jonathan Wiseman became (((Jonathan Wiseman))) and Jewish journalists and writers followed suit. Soon our newsfeeds were plastered by comments from (((Jeffrey Goldberg))), (((Yair Rosenberg))), (((Greg Jenner)))) and (((Lior Zaltzman))).

Instead of appealing to “hate speech”, these people thought it more prudent to reclaim their Jewish identity from a few trolls who hoped to use it against them.

Despite receiving a five star rating on Google’s store, only 2,473 people downloaded the app. And it showed. Their voices were soon drowned out by swathes of users undermining their anti-Semitic cause.

Crucially, the counter-movement demonstrated that Jewish users didn’t need Google to protect them from the ‘Coincidence Detector’. They were perfectly capable of doing that themselves.

From their enslavement in Egypt to their genocide in Eastern Europe, the Jewish people have never had it easy. But, importantly, they still survived. We shouldn’t be too surprised, therefore, that they managed to deal with a crudely devised anti-Semitic app. ‘Coincidence’? I think not.

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