Google’s got 99 problems but a snitch ain’t one
As one of the pioneering internet giants upon which an increasingly search-dependent generation relies on for the most trivial pieces of information, Google has a responsibility to uphold at all costs, political acceptance and moral fortitude. This responsibility stems from the fact that Google’s say has become somewhat synonymous to absolute truth. If Google reviews a restaurant as shit, than it literally serves human-excrement. If Google tells me to take a left on 5th avenue, screw everywhere else, I'm allergic to all roads but 5th. Information is the most empowering element to millennials and what better source of information is out there other than Google? Well, judging by a recent Google Maps hack, you should always keep secondary options in your hand.
Racist vandals try to low-blow this guy/Image: Wikipedia
Google issued an apology for the offense caused by the vandalism of its Maps tools in May that redirected users to the White House when the words “nigga house” was searched. Variations of the n-word such as “nigger king” was enough to prompt an automated redirection to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the current residence of the US’s first African-American president. This blatantly racist search result seems to be caused by “Google bombing”, where vandals flood a keyword with links to a certain location such that the two become associated within Google’s result conjuring algorithm.
Google Maps racist vandalism/Image: Twitter_n., Twitter_BomaniX
After struggling to assuage a frenzy of WTF user complaints for roughly a week after this tasteless hack first caused a stir, Google issued a formal apology for “any offence this may have caused”. It also stressed that Google has not played any direct role in the publishing of this racist search. Though we all doubt that Good-Guy Google was in fact a closet racist(but what IF Google is in fact harboring an idiot programmer that got a bit too cheeky, hmmm) this case of map vandalism, which can apparently also be caused by various methods of roundabout link planting (such as registering a business in location a, moving the address to location b, and changing the name of the business), has delivered two hits to the company's usually lauded image. A, they were briefly framed as racist and insensitive during an age when intolerance is utterly intolerable, and B, their algorithms have been proven to possess easily manipulated loopholes that manic vandalists can easily tap into for bragging rights before all their Reddit comrades.
Turns out, Google Maps has a notorious tradition of being victimized by numerous cases of such internet vandalism. The fictional Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters that trains Marvel’s X-men was actually annotated to a real address in North Salem. A Google spokesperson sarcastically replied “while we encourage people to add places to Google Maps using our Map Maker tool, they need to be part of our world, and not Cyclops and Storm’s."
Welcome to Xavier fellow mutants, now featured on Google Maps/Image: Indy100
Strike two came a couple years back when a Redditor pulled off the gag of adding a giant cat in a section of the map of Auckland, New Zealand. Originally thought to be an easter-egg added by an obviously under-worked Google programmer, this stunt turned out to be an abuse of the map maker feature, which allows people to add roads and trails to the ever-growing interactive world of the Google Maps tool.
Cats not only took-over YouTube, they did so on Google Maps as well/Image: Indy100
Fans of the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspurs had previously filed a complaint to Google, questioning its staff of extending a personal vendetta against the beloved football club. The sensitive fans of the troubled team noticed how the first google-generated definitions of the word “dodgy” and “lackadaisical” conjured examples of the Spurs’ dodgy and lackadaisical performance. Also, if you searched for the words “shithole” on Google Maps in London, the automated results were directed to White Hart Lane, home of the team’s club house. Again, Google played the incompetency over guilt card as it explained that the team’s connection with a cesspit was driven by a prank by google-bombers.
To poke fun at an under-performing sports team is one thing, to publish a racist slur, especially one directed at the executive leader of an entire nation, goes well beyond the acceptance of good old internet fun. Google obviously has a long ways to go to perfect its search algorithms, which comes as a disappointment after its week-long parading of AI advancements. Google Map Maker has already once been suspended after a user attempted to edit a map to look like an Android urinating on an Apple Logo.
Android urinating on apple. OFFICIALLY not Google's intention/Image: Indy100
Though all issues were assuaged before any harm, and more importantly, subpoenas were issued, this troubling series of internet vandalism raises a greater problem. What to do when the very user-generated mapping data that causes so much indecency and credibility problems for the company is one of the greatest factors that accounted for its early user successes? I guess they can stockpile it on their infinite problems pile on their quest for world domination. Only one thing’s for sure. Google will probably have to issue another White House google-bombing statement come November, no matter what the result. But depending on who the elected will be, we'll either laugh it off or watch from the sides as all hell breaks loose.