Palestine Does Not Receive Label on Google Maps
BY: Andrew Hansen/Contributing Writer
Several weeks ago, a journalism group operating out of Gaza City reported that Google had removed Palestine from their Maps. Arab America investigates some of the facts and fiction behind this story of the massive navigation app that averages over a billion uses each week.
Inciting huge amounts of outrage from the the Arab world, several watchdog groups have approached Google, demanding answers and most importantly, an apology. Yet, after the allegations surfaced, an investigation has revealed that while Google may not have “erased” Palestine from their maps, its labeling of Palestine definitely raises a few questions.
When initially approached with the accusation, Google responded, saying:
“There has never been a ‘Palestine’ label on Google Maps, however 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”.
While the Gaza Strip and West Bank labels have been restored, many are still wondering if Google’s labeling policies are consistent with Palestine’s bid for statehood.
When searching for Palestine on Google Maps, it will redirect the user towards the geographic location where Palestinians live. However, it is not labeled as Palestine. Even more disturbing, it is not given official borders, merely a dashed line indicating ‘disputed territory’. Whereas the border between Israel and Lebanon, for example, is clearly separated by a solid line. Israel the only clear country or territorial label apparent to the viewer, while Palestine is labeled with dashed lines.
These boundary representations on Google Maps suggests that Palestine may be a less credible location than neighboring countries, despite its acknowledgement by the United Nations as a territorial non-voting member.
Furthermore, it would seem a bit biased for Palestine to not be clearly labeled on Google Maps. When a user on Google Maps looks over Southeast Asia, Hong Kong is clearly labeled, despite technically being a territory. When a user looks at North Africa, Western Sahara is clearly labeled, while it is technically a territory with disputed claim.
So, why is Palestine not labeled? To someone not familiar with the area, they would have no idea where Palestine was by using Google Maps, even if they were looking right at it.
While the Arab World has taken to the media to respond with calls for boycotts of Google, lengthy discrimination articles, and even hashtags such as #palestineishere, Google Maps has yet to change their labeling policy towards Palestine. The inadequate labeling of Palestine represents some key challenges Palestine will have to confront in its quest for statehood.