While doing some research on anti-Semitism, Yair Rosenberg plugged the words “history of the Rothschilds” into Amazon’s search engine. The first three books that turned up were works of deranged anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, prompting Rosenberg to do some further experiments:
A search for “who did 9/11” yields [as its] number-one search result [a book by one] Nick Kollerstrom, who is a “longtime member of Britain’s 9/11 truth group.” Among other conspiracies, the book contains an entire chapter entitled “9/11 and Zion” which blames the attack on the Jews. . . . Similarly, if one searches for “Jews and the slave trade,” the second, fourth, and fifth results are not scholarship on the subject but notoriously anti-Semitic publications from Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. Farrakhan has worked for years to mainstream the baseless anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews were behind the African slave trade. . . .
The problem here is not that Amazon sells anti-Semitic material. . . . It’s that the company . . . has not trained its algorithm to discount it. If human librarians were asked about the Rothschilds . . . or Jews and the slave trade, they would know how to distinguish between conspiratorial rantings and genuine [scholarship]. They would also likely be aware of the anti-Semitic canards swirling around these subjects, and would steer interested readers away from them. Amazon’s vaunted search engine, perfectly tuned to maximize sales and the user’s shopping experience, has no such cultural competency.