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article imageAnti-Semitic Chrome extension highlights Jewish names on the web

By James Walker     Jun 6, 2016 in Technology
Google has blacklisted a rogue Chrome extension that aimed to identify Jewish people on the Internet by highlighting their names on webpages. The free plugin had over 2500 users before Google pulled it and its far-right developer from the store last week.
The extension was called Coincidence Detector and was rated five stars by 94 users. The BBC reports the name refers to a conspiracy theory relating Jewish people and global control. It was developed by far-right group alt-right.
The extension's quiet existence was made public last week by tech site Mic. It carried a database of over 8,800 names confirmed or considered to be Jewish. When installed, Coincidence Detector would scan webpages in Chrome for names and see if they featured in its database. If a match was found, the name would be highlighted with an "echo" parenthesis involving a suffix and prefix of three brackets.
Users could submit the names of people they believed to be Jewish by using the support page in the app's store listing. The extension had almost entirely positive reviews and was placed into the "fun" category by its developer.
The echo symbol used is reportedly a larger attempt by right-wing extremists and white supremacists to flag up Jewish identities online. The "echo" is supposed to indicate that Jewish names "echoed" throughout history, leaving large impacts on the world in the process.
Since the exposure of Coincidence Detector, several Jews have changed their own Twitter names to include the parentheses as part of a stand against hate speech. The extension has been likened to the gold star identifying badges Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.
It is unclear how long the extension existed in the Chrome Web Store for. After Mic published its article last Thursday, Google was proactive in removing it from the store, taking it offline just hours later.
The company said it was banned for violating its hate speech policy and the Web Store terms and conditions. A clear prohibition in the contract with developers is apps that "promote hate or incitement of violence." Google hasn't commented further.
Its removal comes after Google faced criticism for allegedly including anti-Semitic elements on its web pages. Last year, the company's search results for "Who controls Hollywood" included an encyclopaedia entry on Jews, leading to complaints from several groups. The company blamed problems with its search algorithms which it said would be adjusted.
However, the story doesn't quite end there. The app has already resurfaced and can now be reinstalled. It is available online for manual installation, known as sideloading, and has also been released for the Firefox web browser in the same less visible form.
It’s unclear whether Google and Mozilla will be able to take action against sideloading the extension. New versions are likely to be released as soon as older ones are pulled offline, each capable of being installed without going through an official store.
More about Google, Google chrome, Extensions, Browsers, Antisemitism
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