Feeling a bit Jewish? Have some Dr. Pepper!

September 9, 2009 08:47
3 minute read.


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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.

The 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 partner."

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 Catholics, "condom."

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 Church's sacraments.

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 reaction."

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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