Multiple attacks on Google Maps got the company apologizing over and over again. This time, the recipient of said apologies was President Barack Obama himself.
On late Wednesday night, users reported that the White House, home of the president, was showing up in a Google Maps search using racist language.
The offensive scenario was visible only from some locations on the globe, when typing “house” in combination with a racist term took people to the White House’s location. The description of “iconic home of America’s president” was accompanying the results of multiple search variations of the same racist phrase.
It is yet unclear what the cause of the incident was; some speculations suspect an intended glitch in the search algorithm, as others believe it’s the result of a user taking advantage of Google’s main crowd-sourced editing tool.
Google’s Map Maker lies at the foundation of the service, designed with the intention of improving maps with local knowledge from local users. Before these attacks, they could be user-moderated, but that is about to change.
In yet another apologizing statement, the California-based tech giant expressed its regret about the inappropriate content that shows up in results on Google Maps, and apologized to anyone who was offended by it.
Map Maker has been recently sidelined until issues can be fixed, as Google’s team is looking for ways to implement in the tool a more efficient way of preventing fake and embarrassing edits.
Since Tuesday, the user-moderated service went into temporary unavailability, according to an online announcement. Pavithra Kanakarajan, the one in charge of the Map Maker, explained that their decision was prompted by the escalated attacks spamming Google Maps during the last few months.
One of the more embarrassing incidents happened in April, when a Pakistani location showed up in the search results with an image of an Android mascot peeing on an Apple logo. The offensive image was removed shortly after users started reporting it, as Google decided the crowd-sourced edit might not work for Google Maps anymore.
At the beginning of April, another attack on the service showed a revised the map of the White House in Washington with a slight twitch. “Edwards Snow Den” was included as a new business, with clear reference to the former national security contractor Edward Snowden, the one responsible for leaking thousands of secret documents on US surveillance.
Instead of using the map making tool for its original purpose – that of making maps more accurate and detailed with the help of users – pranksters have abused it. These incidents are the reasons why Google has put a temporary end to it.
Image Source: Fast Company