Friday, January 12, 2007

Is Google Earth Responsible for the Public's Bad Behavior?

Via OM, who has it through TTC, I see that Google Earth is being criticized by TotalyJewish for permiting civillians to attatch anti-Israel comments and pictures to Google Earth's Israel content.

I don't agree that this permissivness is a sign of anti-Israel bias on the part of Google, but first a few caveats:

1 - Though I plan to subscribe to Google Earth momentarily, as of this writing I am not a member, so I can't see the problems for myself. I am relying on two TotalyJewish articles (1,2) for my information and nothing else.

2 - The way I understand it (and, sure, correct me if I am wrong) is that the offensive mateiral isn't Google content, but stuff posted by ordinary members of the public.

3 - TJN additionally says that GoogleEarth has some of Israel's borders wrong. Because I am not a subscriber, I can't check this, but of course the political borders displayed on GE should be correct, and if they aren't that's a mini-scandal, at least.

4 - Google, according to TJ, says it will delete offensive material from Google Earth. As a non-subscriber, I can't see the material that has offended the folks at TJ, but if it's bad, of course Google should take it down.

All that said, I don't think Google deserve quite so much flack. They can't be held responsible for the stupid things their members think and say.

Now, arguably, Google Earth is no place to allow free public commentary from the general public, in the first place. But it's already there. If the commentary members have submitted meets the rules Google put forward it is unreasonable to ask Google to go after any and every comment we might not like. It's not Google's role to decide if the claims of a disgruntled Arab are true or not. And, pace TJN, Google's unwillingness to insert itself into these types of disputes does not suggest an "anti-Israel" bias. It merely suggests that Google's view is that their members should be more or less able to say anything they wish. And that, for better or worse, is a view I support.

Anyway, if you don't like the commentary found at Google Earth you can take matters into your own hands:

HOW TO REDRESS THE BALANCE

To download Google Earth, visit http://earth.google.com, then

1. Click on the Downloads link.

2. Select the correct download boxes depending on whether you are using a PC or Mac.

3. Click Download Google Earth.

4. A shortcut will then be downloaded to your desktop, click on this and you will immediately be taken to a satellite image of earth.

5. Use the search bar on the left hand side to visit parts of the world.

To post comments and pictures on Israel:

1. Visit http://earth.google.com

2. Click the Google Earth Community link on the right hand side.

3. You can then register as a New User, giving your name, login and a password.

4. Once registered, you can visit Israel on Google Earth and upload your fair and positive images and remarks on the country and can also interact with other community members.

REMEMBER - All offensive comments will be removed so be sure to be balanced.

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