UK group warns of far-right Google search manipulation



Far-right manipulation of web searches to stoke Islamophobia and racism should be tackled by search-engine giants, a U.K. hate-crime watchdog has warned.

Tell MAMA, in a new report, urged Google and others to “review how far-right websites are cheating its search algorithm through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in order to improve their rankings on stories related to crime, sexual exploitation, and terrorism”.

“A higher ranking not only increases [extremist] legitimacy but may draw vulnerable individuals into extreme echo chambers,” it claimed.

Tell MAMA said work in partnership with social media companies would help them “better understand anti-Muslim prejudice and … promote online counter-narratives that invest beyond advertising credits”.

The findings were among a range of claims contained in Tell MAMA’s study into British anti-Muslim incidents.

Over 640 Islamophobic incidents were recorded by Tell MAMA in 2016, up from 437 the year before.

Thursday’s report -- A Constructed Threat: Identity, Intolerance and the Impact of Anti-Muslim Hatred -- said Muslim women wearing Islamic clothes were the most vulnerable to attacks.

It suggested the “language of some perpetrators also had misogynistic overtones, meaning that women were abused for their gender and religious identity”.

A majority of perpetrators were males (66 percent) and, where identifiable, most were white.

The report also made recommendations to public authorities, private companies and individuals in a bid to curb Islamophobic incidents.

It urged transport authorities and private companies to do more as “public spaces including public transportation, shops and roadways have been highlighted as key social spaces in which anti-Muslim incidents take place.”

“High-profile events such as the EU referendum and popular debates around immigration and terrorism play into mainstream xenophobic, racist and anti-Muslim sentiment, therefore, more efforts are needed to challenge such statements and counter mythologized narratives about Muslims and Islam,” it said.

Tell MAMA director, Iman Atta, said: “We need to understand that anti-Muslim hatred at a street level has multiple impacts on the victim and their families, given the gendered nature of it.

“It affects the mobility of Muslim women and their sense of belonging which also impacts on their children and limits their confidence.

“We talk much about equality in society and we need to see hate crime work as being an underpinning factor in supporting a sense of equality and justice.”