In an email correspondence with HonestReporting, an Oxford University Press spokesperson has told us that editorial teams will now review the chosen sentences and make updates as necessary, as well as offering the following:
Needless to say, as in any human enterprise, the selection of example sentences can sometimes fall short of the ideal. Often, a real-world example captures a particular nuance of meaning or usage but involves distractingly peculiar or perplexing details. In more troubling cases, a poorly chosen example sentence might inadvertently repeat factually incorrect, prejudiced, or offensive statements from the source. These judgments are subjective, but we do our best to eliminate such examples, and are grateful when readers point them out to us so that we can review our content.
We thank OUP for its response and look forward to seeing the offending sentences removed.
When HonestReporting readers alerted us to an alarming issue discovered in Google Translate, it not only led to a significant result but also uncovered a wider problem with Google’s original source, the Oxford Dictionary.
This is what happened when the term European was typed into Google Translate.
The Definitions section gives examples of the adjective and noun of European:
“We Europeans may take Palestinian land to give it to former European inhabitants, the Jews.”
“He compares the Palestinians at the time to Native Americans when Europeans first showed up in North America.”
We contacted sources at Google as well as flagging the issue on Twitter.
As a result, our friend Ido Daniel, an expert on online anti-Semitism, also discovered what happens when one entered the word Jew into Google:
The definition reads:
“bargain with someone in a miserly or petty way.”
Anti-Semitic definitions of Jews should have no place on Google.
Google, with offices in Israel and significant investments in research and development in the country, is certainly not hostile towards Israel. It is, however, responsible for its algorithms and sources that, whether unintentionally or not, may promote anti-Semitism and demonization of Israel.
SOURCING THE PROBLEM
In this particular case, it appears that the dictionary definitions were originally sourced from the online version of the Oxford Dictionary.
As for the definition of Jew, unlike Google, the Oxford Dictionary at least states that the verb is offensive, which is an important contextual addition.
We contacted the Oxford Dictionary and Oxford University Press to request that the inappropriate choice of example sentences that appear in the definition of European are removed and are awaiting a response.
HR CEO Joe Hyams comments:
Even though Google is such a huge global entity, it is significant that a positive outcome was achieved so promptly and we thank Google for addressing our concerns. This issue also demonstrates the power of social media and the ability of organizations such as HonestReporting to effectively channel and leverage the crowd to get results.
A reputable source such as the Oxford Dictionary should not be including offensive and politicized example sentences in definitions that have no direct linkage to Israel, Palestinians or Jews. We call on Oxford University Press to amend its online version and ensure that future print editions do not include these sentences.
Originally posted on November 23, 2017 at Honest Reporting