After a Google Maps user pointed out over the weekend that the popular mapping service did not use the label Palestine for the geographic area Palestinians claim for their own country, social media users have erupted in anger directed at the technology giant, accusing it of having deleted the label in a politically-charged move that favored Israel.
— Valdi Greenwood (@ValdiArief) August 8, 2016
— Marc Heatley (@marcheatley) August 8, 2016
— Ferran (@ferrangom1973) August 8, 2016
However, it turns out Google never used the label to start with.
A search for Palestine — or the West Bank and Gaza Strip — on Google Maps shows a demarcated area where it should be but does not mention it by name. The label of Israel is applied to regions outside the Palestinian areas. Clicking on cities within the Palestinian areas shows them as being in Palestine.
A Google spokesperson told Engadget: “There has never been a 'Palestine' label on Google Maps, however we discovered a bug that removed the labels for 'West Bank' and 'Gaza Strip.' We're working quickly to bring these labels back to the area.”
The company’s explanation hasn’t stopped from #PalestineIsHere from trending on Twitter. A five-month-old petition on Change.org asking Google to put Palestine on its Maps has also gained traction the last few days, crossing 250,000 signatures.
Many Palestinians and others feeling outraged have said they were switching away from using Google’s services. Microsoft, whose Bing Maps labels Palestine clearly as its own place, is likely to benefit. On the other hand, Apple, which doesn’t separate the region from Israel at all, will not.