In May 2021, Ethical Consumer searched the Internet for criticisms against Google and found several relating to discrimination of Palestinians. This are detailed below:
- Website ‘Investigate’ accuses Alphabet of discriminating against Palestinians (July 2019)
A search of The American Friends Service Committee’s Investigate website was made by Ethical Consumer in May 2021 and found that Alphabet Inc. was listed. The company’s profile stated “Google Maps, the company’s online map application, discriminates against Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank in several ways...Google Maps navigation results assume its users are Israeli citizens, who enjoy freedom of movement in the West Bank, and fail to consider the Israeli-imposed restrictions on Palestinians. Many roads in the occupied West Bank are either completely or partially prohibited for Palestinian use, and others are severely restricted. The consequences for Palestinians following Google’s navigation instructions and using these roads without a permit include arrest, car confiscation, and injury or death.”
The report goes on to say “Many Palestinian villages are missing from Google Maps, or appear only at the highest zoom level. In contrast, even the smallest Israeli settlements in the West Bank are displayed, and sometimes even labelled as located in Israel, even though these settlements are illegal under international law and are not part of Israel.”
Lastly it states “Youtube, Google’s online video platform, also discriminates against Palestinians. Youtube blocks Palestinian content on the grounds that it incites violence while allowing similar or more blatant content by Jewish Israelis. In 2018 alone, Youtube deleted more than 45 Palestinian accounts and channels, including two news outlets.”
- Research alleges violations of Palestinian’s online rights by big technology companies (December 2020)
An article was found on the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre website titled ‘Palestine: Research alleges violations of online rights by international technology companies’ and dated 16th December 2020. It detailed 7amleh’s (The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media) research into “the effects of governmental and business policies and practices on Palestinian digital rights.” The article signposts to two reports, ‘Are YouTube’s Policies Biased Against Palestinians?’ and ‘Systematic Efforts to Silence Palestinian Content On Social Media’. Google (and its subsidiary YouTube ) were named in these reports and have not responded to these allegations.
- Employees call for Google to show more support to Palestinians (May 2021)
An article titled ‘Jewish Google employees call for company to support Palestinians amid Israel’s bombing of Gaza’ and dated 19th May 2021 was found (a number of other news articles were also found which reported on the same topic).1 It stated that following the recent conflict between Israel and Palestine, a group of Jewish Google employees had “written to the company asking it to do more to support Palestinians”. The group was quoted as requesting ““Google leadership to make a company-wide statement recognising the violence in Palestine and Israel, which must include direct recognition of the harm done to Palestinians by Israeli military and gang violence”. Google had not formally responded to the group’s letter.
- Criticised over “blurry” Google Maps images of Gaza (May 2021)
Several news articles were found reporting on Google’s unwillingness to update its “blurry” Google Maps images of the OPTs. Google stated that it had “no plans” to improve the image quality, the company stated that it considers "opportunities to refresh our satellite imagery as higher resolution imagery becomes available", but that it has "no plans to share at this time". A number of the articles highlighted that satellite images of the infamously secretive North Korean state are far superior to those in the OPTs.
- Criticised for not labelling Palestine on Google Maps (May 2021)
Google has received renewed criticism over the last month surrounding its decision not to label Palestine on its Google Map service. Several articles were found that covered this topic. One of which, published by USA Today, was titled ‘Fact check: Google does not have a Palestine label on its maps’ and dated 21st May 2021. It stated that “When searching for "Palestine" on Google Maps, the map zooms in on the Israel-Palestine region, and both the Gaza Strip and West Bank territories are labelled and separated by dotted lines. But there is no label for Palestine. In an email statement, Google said it doesn't label the borders because there isn't international consensus on where the Palestinian borders are located.”
The company was originally accused of “deleting Palestine” in August 2016 after a public petition highlighted the issue. However, an article published by the Guardian included this statement from Google, “There has never been a ‘Palestine’ label on Google Maps, however we discovered a bug that removed the labels for ‘West Bank’ and ‘Gaza Strip’. We’re working quickly to bring these labels back to the area.”
- Google subsidiary Waze accused of discrimination against Palestinians (October 2016)
A search result stated that Google acquired Israeli company Waze in 2013. Waze’s offices are based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Further research into Waze’s activities in relation to Palestine uncovered a Vice news article titled ‘Waze Lets Israelis Avoid Palestinian Areas, but Not the Other Way Around’ and dated October 2016.7 The article stated that Waze is automatically set to “avoid dangerous driving areas and the A, B territories [Palestinian areas]”. It said that Palestinians who use Waze “say it's a double standard that the company offers a special function for Jewish Israelis to avoid Palestinian areas in the West Bank, but doesn't offer a similar setting for Palestinians who wish to avoid Jewish ones.”
The article notes, however, that it is dangerous sometimes for Israelis to be in Palestinian territories, as well as being illegal for several Palestinian cities in the West Bank, like Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus. The article stated that “some Palestinians are concerned that Waze's use of the phrase "dangerous areas" is subjective and stigmatizes their communities. On a recent drive through the West Bank it was clear that Waze was using the term "dangerous" to refer primarily to Arab cities in the West Bank and Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.”
The company lost a whole mark under the Human Rights category in light of these criticisms.