Google lets anybody suggest changes to its maps, and on January 2, an anonymous user suggested that Theodor-Heuss square in Berlin shouldn’t be named after Germany’s first federal president but after Adolf Hitler. Google uses a small army of volunteers and its own moderators to check all submissions before they go live, and whoever checked this one apparently thought the submission was correct. So for the next few days, the square was called “Adolf Hitler Platz” in Google Maps.
Given that Germans (understandably) take all things Nazi pretty seriously, that caused a bit of a scandal. Germany’s LandkartenBlog, which first detected this issue, tracked down what happened in detail (Google Translate). After “Anonym5394” suggested adding the historic name, Google Maps moderator “Vishali, who approved over 24,000 edits over the last 550 days, accepted the change. Indeed, he liked it so much, that he didn’t just mark it as a secondary alternative name, which “Anonym5394” suggested, but as the canonical name for the square.
Other users quickly noticed the change and another moderator then reversed the changes after they remained online for a few days.
In many ways, this is just another example of crowdsourcing getting something wrong and then correcting itself. It also shows, however, that Google doesn’t necessarily vet all of its Maps moderators to the degree it should – or works them so hard, that mistakes like this are inevitable.
Either way, Google has issued an apology and Google Maps now shows the right name again.
Image credit: Tagesanzeiger