Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Change To Google Earth Requires Corroboration For User Entries

Last week I wrote an article for O'Reilly News and for this blog documenting alleged anti-Israel political bias and the posting of false information at Google Earth. Similar charges had been previously made about Google News. The main point of the article was to question the integrity of the data provided by Google and questioning if, in effect, Google was losing the trust of its wider user community by making decisions which suited a specific political agenda.

While the article appeared on Friday, August 29th it was actually sent to Google for comment more than 24 hours earlier. While I received no directly reply an article in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday, August 31st reported changes at Google Earth:
A new super-layer of geographic information in the popular Google Earth program now requires corroboration before user-generated content can be added to the default map display. The move means that anti-Israel markings placed by a Jenin resident are no longer visible to users when they first open the program.


Key to the new layer are special algorithms that corroborate information received through one source with the other sources. According to a company statement, this will make "it easier for users to learn about a given place through photos, videos, and annotations contributed by users around the world."

But it will also allow Google Earth to automatically corroborate any information received from users before displaying it on the default layer. Only information appearing in more than a single source will be displayed in this layer.

It appears that Google has made changes which do address the concerns of the company's critics on this issue.

I don't know if this is the result of nearly two years of criticism in the Israeli press and the pro-Israel blogosphere or if my effort to raise the issue in another forum, in the tech community to be specific, made a difference. One thing I am sure of: all of us who wrote to raise this issue deserve some credit. That includes both reporters and bloggers. Google is no longer in the business of delegitimizing Israel because we made our voices heard. Such efforts need to continue, calling into question every bit of misinformation and outright falsehoods that are published about Israel. The change at Google Earth proves that we, as a group, can make a difference and stand up for the truth.

No comments: