Web surfers searching for medical treatments on
the wellness site HealthBase have found some snags in the site's search
engine. According to the site, possible treatments for "Jew" are Dr.
Pepper and rock salt.
site, which was meant to utilize cutting-edge technology to help users
search for information regarding medical conditions, offered such
interesting parameters as "pros/cons of treatment" in which, if the
word "Jew" were entered, such cons as Arab
killers and promoting
communism were listed. The site also cited other drawbacks as "Kill
Jesus" and "Kill Paul."
But users didn't have to enter "Jew" to find problematic
content - people searching for "causes of AIDS" could find "Jew" fourth
on the list, behind "virus," "sexual contact" and "contact infected
Although Web wags quickly drew parallels between the site's
boasted "semantic search" and the apparent "anti-Semitic search," other
religions received equal treatment. The recommended course of treatment
for "Muslim" included "contraceptives" and "Norplant," and for
The search also entered the range of the completely
absurd, with the entry "Genghis Kahn
" coming up with the recommended
dietary treatment of "yams."
Dietary treatments for Catholics somewhat more logically
included "red wine" and "bread," in an apparent reference to the
But within hours after the buzz began to circle
the Web, one-by-one, weird search results began to disappear from the
site. As of press time, entering "Jew" resulted in a laconic "no
results found," as did "Islam," "Muslim" and "Catholic."
But for those still interested in laughs at the expense of new
technology tripping over its own shoelaces, "Likud" can be treated with
gold, "Labor Party" with free milk, and "Zoroastrians" by the stimulant
Ephedera, mineral water, saffron and honesty.
Dutch stateman Johan van Oldenbarneveldt (1547-1619) might also
have been surprised - had he not been a victim of the same procedure -
to find himself listed as one possible cause of decapitation. And one
of the "pros" of hemorrhoids is "achieve first sustained nuclear
HealthBase was not meant to be an Internet entertainer, but
rather was set up by parent company NetBase as "a showcase of NetBase's
Content Intelligence for healthcare platform."
According to NetBase, the company's "Content Intelligence
technology reads every sentence inside documents, linguistically
understands the content and powers breakthrough search experiences that
deliver highly relevant answers and insights."
Insights, yes. Relevance? Perhaps it's too early to tell.
In the meantime, even before beginning to expunge some of the
more obvious search oddities (Barack Obama is also not found), NetBase
responded to TechCruch's Leena Rao last week, a day after the site was
launched, telling her that NetBase "is a powerful and automated
technology, that when applied to something as messy as the Web, will
produce some amazing results, but also some strange, funny and
irrelevant ones. Our first release of HealthBase yesterday surfaced a
few embarrassing and offensive bugs. These were far in the minority of
results but enough to keep us up late improving the site. We sincerely
regret and apologize in particular for any offense caused."
That was last Tuesday, but as of Sunday, Jews were still
treatable by Dr. Pepper and Taoists by black sesame. NetBase's media
relations department did not respond to The Jerusalem Post by press time.
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