The internet is in a furore over Palestine being “airbrushed” out of Google Maps. Here’s why the petitioners got it wrong.
Earlier this week, Google did the unthinkable. They waded into the Israel/Palestine debate and wiped the country off the face of the Earth, because a global tech giant is all about causing controversy and expressing strong opinions.
The outcry on hashtag #PalestineIsHere was so great that 250,000 people have signed a Change.org petition (because of course there’s a Change.org petition). While that petition was from back in March 2016 and about something else – the recognition of Palestine as a country – a large amount of the signatures came after a recent glitch in the system that removed the labels for Gaza and the West Bank.
There was a Twitterstorm:
— Rana (@ranaaa_d) August 9, 2016
How can you even remove an entire nation from the world’s most popular search engine?! Is that even legally right?!#PalestineIsHere
— Kachi Sharaab (@NimraKay) August 9, 2016
— Marc Heatley (@marcheatley) August 8, 2016
The real explanation, though – according to Google – is that a glitch removed the labels for Gaza and the West Bank, and apparently nowhere else.
But if you’re only getting outraged now about “Palestine not being recognised as a country on Google Maps”, then you’re in for a shock. It was never there, at least not as a country. It’s always been treated as a “disputed territory”, along with Kashmir and Crimea, and marked with a dotted border. It’s not just Google who are to blame either: those other map services nobody uses – Bing and MapQuest – do the same thing!
What do you think: was Google actively trying to rewrite history in Israel’s favour, or were people too quick to jump on the hashtag without realising what they were tweeting about?