No, Google didn’t delete Palestine from Google Maps
Yesterday, Twitter went into a frenzy over the supposed deletion of Palestine from Google Maps. Users claimed that Google had deliberately removed the nation from its mapping services, leaving behind Israel as the only recognised country in the region.
While this angered Twitter users around the world, it also sparked calls for Google to reinstate Palestine on Maps and for the Californian-based company to issue an apology to the Palestinian people.
“[Our group] condemns the crime carried out by Google in deleting the name of Palestine, and calls for Google to rescind its decision and apologize to the Palestinian people,” said the Forum of Palestinian Journalists.
The furore has escalated to the point where more than 250,000 people have signed a petition to get Google to put Palestine back on Maps. Even Al Jazeera weighed in on the matter with a quick social video, indicating that one reason for its omission could be because the US – where Google is based – doesn’t recognise Palestine as a country.
Twitter users also started sharing their opinions and boycotting Google services under the hashtag #PalestineIsHere.
However, as Google eventually went on to explain, Palestine never actually existed on Google Maps in the first place. Speaking to Engadget, Google explained that “we discovered a bug that removed the labels for ‘West Bank’ and ‘Gaza Strip’. We’re working quickly to bring these labels back to the area”.
Before West Bank and Gaza Strip were removed from Google Maps, they were both defined as cities within the region of Palestine – a “de jure sovereign state” as per the UN’s own terminology.
The fact that Google never defined Palestine on Google Maps may not make the situation any better, but it’s interesting to see how quickly social media can mobilise people towards a cause – even when they aren’t presented with all the facts. That said, as Engadget points out, companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft all need to be aware that their services are more than just a means to find directions or answer questions – they have a huge impact on how people see the world.
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