A seemingly offensive move, if you search for ‘anti-national,’ ‘nationalism,’ ‘patriotism,’ ‘ sedition,’ and ‘leftist’ on Google Maps, it takes you straight to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). It’s pretty awkward, to say the least, even searching ‘criminals’ will give you JNU as one of two options, the second being a criminal justice attorney. It was noticed on Friday morning, and while some find humour in the situation, it has understandably unsettled students and faculty members at the prestigious university. “We will raise the issue with the administration to send an official communication to Google in this regard. We have been protesting against the branding of an institution as anti-national and now the search giant has gone a step ahead in certifying that,” JNU Students Union Vice President Shehla Rashid Shora told NDTV.
“I don’t know how this thing works on internet. But it should be corrected. JNU should contact Google and get it rectified,” said Anuradha Chenoy, dean School of International Studies. People are brushing it off as the work of internet trolls, but there are those who claim a political backing to the search result, although at the end, most fingers are pointed at Google. However, Google isn’t completely to blame here. The website runs on algorithms which picks up key words and associations made in articles and text as they appear online across various websites. With the numerous articles and conversations taking place online regarding Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, and the entire JNU debacle and its related debates and discussions, it’s not really surprising that JNU is being linked to the words anti-national, patriotism and sedition.
This wouldn’t be the first instance of such an uncomfortable search result on Google. While it may be amusing for some, in June 2015 had you searched for ‘top 10 criminals’ using the popular search engine, you would be shown our current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. As stated by Hindustan Times, in May 2015, the primary search result of racist slur ‘nigger house’ would point out the White House, home of president Barack Obama. Google issued an apology on both accounts, clarifying that the search results are automated and do not in any way portray their personal opinions. A spokesperson for Google stated that the company was aware of the current issue and was working on resolving it.
It wouldn’t be fair to put the entire blame on Google, their efficiency, for which they are otherwise applauded, depends on several instances on the workings of their automated systems and algorithms. In an ideal world, such situations wouldn’t occur, being misguided and possibly hurtful to people’s sentiments. But in the real world, while we have drastically developed technologically, it doesn’t always run smoothly, and as the incidents of the past illustrate, glitches take place but it doesn’t necessarily reflect common opinion, as troubling as it may be.
Words: Sara Hussain