Open source software may have its advantages, but every once in a while, someone reminds us of why we just can’t have nice things. On Tuesday, a number of Google Maps users were alarmed by the the very disturbing discovery that searching the racial slur “n—- king” directed them to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or as it’s more commonly known, the White House. The same results were achieved with a search for “n—- house.” If anyone needed proof of the ongoing existence of racism in the United States, there are now literally directions for it.
Following this overt display of racism, poor taste, and all around foolishness, Google announced that they were “temporarily disabling editing on Map Maker” as they “continue[d] to work towards making the moderation system more robust.” A spokesperson for the tech company stated, “Some inappropriate results are surfacing in Google Maps that should not be, and we apologize for any offense this may have caused. Our teams are working to fix this issue quickly.”
Unfortunately, the issue does not appear to have been fully resolved quite yet, as a current search of “n—- house” still zooms in on the presidential residence. The offensive searches are not just limited to the White House, however. Depending on your location, a slew of impolite terms will land you in different places — for example, searching “shit hole” in New York City takes you to Lexington Market in Baltimore, Maryland, while the same search in London, England, according to the Guardian, places you in White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur’s football ground.
This certainly isn’t the first time the Web application has been abused. Just last week, an image of an Android urinating on the Apple’s logo appeared in Pakistan. But to be fair, Maps has also been used for more innocent and amusing purposes, like Google Naps, which shows you all the best public napping places in your city.
Searching your own name on Google Maps will also yield interesting results. For example, Maps seems to believe that I am currently at the Manhattan Cricket Club, a place I visited once months ago. Accurate? No. Creepy? Absolutely.