‘Catastrophe’ For Google Earth Users

Palestinian propaganda on Google Earth escalated yesterday. Orange dots highlighting Palestinian villages across Israel now say “Nakba – The Palestinian Catastrophe” along with each village’s name.

In today’s Jerusalem Post, Dr. Andre Oboler raises several important points:

• Some of the posted villages weren’t destroyed during the 1948 War of Independence, falsifying history.

• The misinformation appears on Google Earth’s “core layer,” which means anyone using the tool to visit automatically sees the propaganda. Pro-Israel posts, as well as corrected posts are relegated to secondary layers readers have to select.

• The Nakba labels placed on the core layer were all added by Tameen Darby, of Jenin, and include links to Palestine Remembered.


The Post also notes that the Israeli muncipality of Kiryat Yam is preparing legal action against Google Earth because a note was placed on the the town months ago — also by Darby — falsely stating that it was built on top of Ghawarina.

Nobody takes issue with Darby’s right to post user-generated content. The issue boils down to whether he violated Google Earth norms by posting his material on the core layer itself. Oboler cries foul:

“Google needs to review their policy for the community content layer, perhaps dividing it up or further restricting it to content about current significant locations and landmarks,” Oboler said.

“Information can also be about the past or the future, for advocacy or for education. These things are valuable, but belong in separate layers, preferably ones that are fine-tuned to specific topics. This would prevent the abuse of the platform, the problem we have now, and avoid the problem of clutter in the future as the earth is overpopulated with user content.”

Google spokesman Susan Powell disagreed:

“This layer reflects what people contribute, not what Google believes to be true,” Powell said.

But in an email exclusive to HonestReporting this morning, Oboler emphasized that Google Earth is considered an information web site:

If Google really believes Google Earth should not be considered a true representation, it should explicitly say this on the viewing screen. “The fact remains that Google is in editorial control and does excersize that control.

Therein lies the question: Is Darby’s propaganda within the terms of use for the Google Earth’s Community?

Just last week, Oboler released a critical paper slamming the way Palestinian supporters have abused Googe Earth to spread “replacement geography.”

See related chatter in the Google Earth community.

User-generated content has so much to offer. It’s a shame Palestinian activists put a stain on collaborative sites like Google Earth (or, for that matter, Wikipedia). The real catastrophe is for the users.