Google Earth, Politics, and Replacement Geography

A disturbing  indication of how important Google is for shaping everything…. including the recent past:

From O’Reilly:

On June 26 Andre Oboler of the Jerusalem Center For Public Affaris published a report titled Google Earth: A New Platform for Anti-Israel Propaganda and Replacement Geography. In the report Dr. Oboler states, in part:

“…sites known to be ruins in 1946 are claimed to be villages destroyed in 1948. Arab villages which still exist today are listed as sites of destruction. The Google Earth initiative is not only creating a virtual Palestine, it is creating a falsification of history.[…]

The inclusion of virtual Palestine, superimposed on Israel in the core layer of Google Earth, is an example of replacement geography advanced by technology. Those wishing to find directions, explore the cities of Israel, or randomly wander across this small piece of land are immediately taken to a politically motivated narrative unrelated to their quest.”

What makes Oboler’s report compelling is not the fact that users have altered history and geography to suit their political purpose. Rather, it is that Israel, unlike other nations, has had this information included into the default display.

[other examples are included in the O’Reilly report]

This is especially pernicious, when you consider how most users of web-services (or computing services more generally) rarely question the default settings.  Replacement geography, indeed. It is one thing to provide a layer that shows a political history, quite another to just ‘slip it in’. Shame on Google.

Final word to O’Reilly News:

There is a wider issue for all of Google’s hundreds of millions of users. Google has built a reputation and a successful business based on trust. Google users trust that when they do a search, look at Google Earth, or use any of Google’s other services that accurate data is being provided to them. I have no evidence that Google’s search engine, for example, is in any way tainted by politics Despite that I find myself double checking the results Google provides with new search engines like Cuil and Mooter and even the venerable Alta Vista. Google has already lost the trust of many Israeli, Jewish, and pro-Israel users. What happens to Google’s business if this lack of trust spreads to the wider user community as they become aware of the charges of political bias?

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