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Friday, January 12, 2007

A new kind of anti-Israel bias from our friends at Google

Google has this neat little tool called Google Earth, which I have never had the inclination to figure out how to use. Described as an 'interactive atlas,' Google earth claims to provide “local facts” and “critical tools for understanding a story” about the world. And, as TotallyJewish.com has discovered, it also slips in little biases about Israel.

Hat Tip: Israel at Level Ground (see more below)
One Israeli settlement is displayed alongside comments implying citizens are stealing water from neighbouring Palestinians, while other images purport to show copies of land confiscation orders as well as plans to extend the security fence into Bethlehem.

And while Google claims that it defines its state borders according to UN regulations, the Gaza Strip is still listed as being under Israeli occupation. However, Israel pulled out of Gaza and handed it to the Palestinian Authority two years ago.

Meanwhile, a posting next to the town of Kiryat Arba says: “Note the well-tended lawns in a region deprived of water.” Clicking on a weblink in the posting brings the user to a site which says “the principal reason for the water shortage is an unfair distribution of water resources shared by Israel and the Palestinians.” It goes on to decry Israel’s policy as both illegal and racist.

Elsewhere, visitors to Google Earth who click on the settlement of Kibbutz Revivim are shown an image of a wrecked C-47 plane. And just outside Jerusalem, a computer generated image, believed to have been taken from a computer game, claims to depict an Israeli missile factory.

The negative image given of Israel clearly outweighs any positive or even balanced portrayal of the country, which consists of just a handful of pictures of hotels and scenery in Eilat.
As usual, Google denies responsibility, although they have apparently agreed to investigate:
She said the comments and pictures are posted by members of the public who are registered members of the site’s Google Earth community, and can be switched off if visitors don’t want to see them.

However, the spokesperson promised that the company would investigate the offending postings.
Dave at Israel at Level Ground says that if we start digging, we'll find more biases against Israel in Hezbullah's 'redone' maps of Lebanon, and at photography sites (one look at Dave's blog will tell you that he is a photographer):
Another glaring example is here, in a previous entry about avid "amateur" photography sites, like TrekEarth (along with its sister sites, TrekLens, and TrekNature) where I wrote, "PA area shots are accompanied by agitprop, in a sort of "soft-propaganda" exploitation..."
In the age of fauxtography, it would be nice if Israel's policymakers - especially some of the foreign ministry types - woke up and combatted this sort of thing. I wonder if Foreign Minister Tzipi Feigele Livni knows how to use a computer....



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