Happy Birthday

Today is the 15th birthday of the internet.  Its hard to believe that such an important social revolution is so young, and that somehow we managed to get through life without the instant gratification of having the world at our fingertips through global communications.  The world is a much smaller and richer place as a result. 

As noted by the linked article, the internet can be a force for good, or otherwise.  Like anything we have the power to use this tool in a positive or negative way.  We can learn so much, exercise free speech, and receive news very quickly via the net.  However the dangers of too much liberty and the uncontrollable nature of information, identity theft, misuse and disruption is on occasions very frightening.

Here is a classic example.  I searched on google for the word “Jew”.  I came up with 17.2 million hits in .09 of a second.  When I scanned the first results there were a number of anti-Semitic sites.  But more surprising was the disclaimer page that appeared at the top of the list.  The URL is http://www.google.com/explanation.html, and the text reads as follows:

If you recently used Google to search for the word “Jew,” you may have seen results that were very disturbing. We assure you that the views expressed by the sites in your results are not in any way endorsed by Google. We’d like to explain why you’re seeing these results when you conduct this search.

A site’s ranking in Google’s search results relies heavily on computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query. Sometimes subtleties of language cause anomalies to appear that cannot be predicted. A search for “Jew” brings up one such unexpected result…….

What is so surprising is that you can type other words such as “pornography” or “racism” into the search engine, and do not get any riders that defend the nature of the content where it is socially distasteful.   

As with any social revolution, the force of good will eventually override the force of evil, even if some sections of the population have to learn the hard way first.  Some of the anti-Jewish sentiment on the web, and some of the vitriol directed to Jewgleperth as a proud and identifiably Jewish blog, is at times very offensive and disturbing.  Having to contend with this is part of the reality of being in an open world without limits.  Anti-Semitism has been around for as long as the Jewish people.  The internet may provide another medium of expression for this, but the true impact of the internet on Jewish history will be defined by the incredible amount of accessible Jewish thought and content, and not by the incredible amount of Jewish prejudice and hatred. 

To those who air their hateful comments towards us, I can say that your hatred won’t change us or dent our pride.  But your comments will continue to be deleted.  

Happy Birthday to the Internet, and thank you for giving us the experience of being in an open world without limits.  May you continue to inspire us until the end of days.

 

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