Friday, August 27, 2010

Google Maps Misplaces the Lincoln Memorial Prior to Controversial Rally

Update:  Scroll to the end of the article to Google's response to our press request.
Update 2:  As of sometime Saturday morning the Lincoln Memorial has been geolocated back in its proper place.

Background:  Controversial conservative media man Glenn Beck is hosting a "non-political" rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on August 28.  Many popular figures from the Tea Party movement are expected to be there.  Some oppose the rally because they see it mocking Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a Dream" speech which was given forty-seven years prior on the same day at the Lincoln Memorial.

Two nights before the rally the conservative and libertarian blogspheres started to report that the Lincoln Memorial had been misplaced in Google Maps.  The shown location and any directions guide users towards the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial which is half a mile away from the Lincoln Memorial (Side note: Glenn Beck thinks Roosevelt was one of the worst presidents ever and routinely denounces him on Beck's radio show and television program).  Many on the center-right blogosphere are claiming Google has purposefully made the change to confuse and/or spite rally attenders.

Those going to the rally no doubt already know they are going to Lincoln Memorial and where it is.  Anyone who ends up at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial will most probably see other people closer towards the Lincoln Memorial and quickly figure out the right place to go.

Google Maps takes one towards the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial which is half a mile away from the Lincoln Memorial
Now Google Maps has been the victim of false claims of bias before.  It has been accused of taking sides in geopolitical debates when it has used generalized data not meant to be precise.  Other cases of bias have arisen as well.  For example: many pro-Georgian bloggers claimed Google was anti-Georgia by not showing any detailed data of the country during its war with Russia.  However, the data was never there to begin with.

Strangely though Google Maps did know where the memorial was before and the "Report a problem" link has without a doubt been used a vast multitude of times since last night yet the error remains. Hopefully this misplacement is a technical glitch or a rouge cartographer playing petty games.

Typing in Lincoln Memorial in Google Earth also takes one to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.  Yet the attractions layer clearly shows the Lincoln Memorial in its proper place.

What is shown and what is not shown in maps reflect the biases of the cartographers.  Google is such a power player in geography today that I hope it can keep itself neutral.  If Google Maps data cannot be respected (or if one can legitimately cry manipulation) the online expansion of geography can suffer a massive blow.

Google Responds:

Thanks for getting in touch about this and apologies for the delay as I awaited a response from the team. Below is more information about listings on Google Maps in general, as well as this specific instance, attributable to a Google spokesperson.

The listings in Google Maps, part of our local search offering, come from a combination of sources including third-party and publicly available Yellow Page directories, business information from our web search results, and business owners and users who make contributions to share their local expertise. Google Maps is a very popular source for local data, but we recognize that with millions of listings, there will be an occasional error. We encourage users to update listings themselves if they know the correct information - more on that process here - or flag something as incorrect using our “Report a Problem” button, found at the bottom right corner of the map. In this case, however, the team is already looking into this issue for you and currently working to resolve it.

Hope this helps,

Our Reply:

Sadly none of this addresses the issue.


Anonymous said...

I notice that your screenshot says "Walking directions to Franklin Delano" in the bottom left. I am skeptical; this image appears to be doctored.

Catholicgauze said...

It would be rather stupid of me to doctor an image of a claim that could have been easily debunked.
As I said in the post "The shown location and any directions guide users towards the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial"
Other people have encountered this problem as well. Do a Google News or Google Blogs search for "google maps Lincoln Memorial" to see other stories on this same issue. Either I was able to hack Google Maps and trick everyone or Google did have this problem.

Steve Sailer said...

I saw the "misplacement" of the Lincoln Memorial on Google Maps around dawn on Saturday. A huge number of other people saw this sabotage.

Google has a history of petty pranks against the politically unfashionable. See, for example, Google's unpersonizing Pat Buchanan early this year in Google's minor "prompt" feature:

Anonymous said...

Why would it be stupid? You make the claim, even if it's easy to debunk, and with any luck it gets picked up by all the blogs that don't bother to double-check. PC World noticed it. And if someone does try to debunk it, you just say "well, maybe Google fixed it by the time you checked."

This looks doctored to me. All the other mentions of this lead back to this blog or a RedState post that came from a tip by an anonymous source.

Catholicgauze said...

Too bad you did not see the Instapundit or Drudge Report stories on it the night before. Do you think PC World forged their image of it as well?

I like my blog and its positive reputation. I would not make something like this up. Seriously, either accuse PC World and I of being part of a giant conspiracy on idiots that fooled sites like Slashdot (you don't think they would check) and the whole internet or drop your slanderous accusations.

Anonymous said...

actually it seems like they did address it. especially given that "less than half a mile" is well within the 200 meter trigger of the edit feature in google maps. My money is on anti-Beck googlers rather than some google conspiracy.

Catholicgauze said...

FDR and Lincoln are well beyond the 200 meter limit and are (measured by Google Earth) 769 meters apart. Also, whenever I submit an edit to Google Maps I receive the message "Thank you. Your edit has been saved and will be visible after it has been reviewed."

I'm not saying this is a conspiracy from the top. However, someone on Google's staff allowed a widely reported error to be approved and continued despite repeated reports.

Google's non-answer on the issue does not help relieve fears that some of its staff were involved in a stupid political prank with its well respected mapping program.

Rybu said...

I do understand the high standard we hold Google to but with such a large organization minor glitches like this will happen. I don't think it's worth getting upset over.

It's not like Google used imagery from a previous rally and claimed it to be the 912 rally ;)

Catholicgauze said...

Fox News using the Obama inauguration photo as 9/12 and Google's stunt are in the same pool of dishonesty. Knowing what I know of Google Maps (due to friends working there so yes it is not first hand knowledge) honest "errors" like US data randomly moving just don't happen.