Amazon’s Algorithmic Anti-Semitism

Nov. 19 2018

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.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Internet, Louis Farrakhan, Politics & Current Affairs

“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

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More about: Iran, Oil, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen