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Google to reopen Map Maker in early August, asks users to police themselves

Google knows that you’ve got to give the people what they want, and apparently, what they really want is Map Maker back. Just a month after suspending the service following a number of unfortunate and inappropriate incidents with the feature, Google has decided to reopen Map Maker, but only if we help keep it clean. It’s a lot of responsibility to bear, which Google knows better than anyone (and is likely why they’re passing the buck to users).

Following a series of veritable PR nightmares, including the image of a 2,500 foot Android robot peeing on an Apple logo somewhere in Pakistan and the highly offensive renaming of the White House to reflect a racial slur, product manager Pavithra Kanakarajan announced, “Map Maker will be temporarily unavailable for editing starting May 12, 2015.” In her initial post regarding the issue, she chastised pranksters who had gone too far in taking artistic license with editing software. At the time, Kanakarajan wrote, “Given the current state of the system, we have come to the conclusion that it is not fair to any of our users to let them continue to spend time editing. Every edit you make is essentially going to a backlog that is growing very fast. We believe that it is more fair to only say that if we do not have the capacity to review edits at roughly the rate they come in, we have to take a pause.”

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So now, in order to address the apparently enormous demand, Google is simply washing its hands of the whole ordeal, instead tasking the Map Maker community with the rather overwhelming responsibility of policing content. When the service is reinstated in early August, it is the user base that will bear the onus of editing and ensuring that the maps remain PG.

Said Kanakarajan, “… we’re looking for users to now have more influence over the outcome of edits in their specific countries. This means that edits on Map Maker will be increasingly made open for moderation by the community. While some edits will still require moderation by Google operators, our loyal users will recognize that this is a departure from how we have operated in the past, where majority of your edits were reviewed by Google operators. This has been a request you’ve made for a very long time, and this change should, hopefully, come as good news.”

While this may seem a bit counterintuitive (after all, it was the inability of the community to police themselves that got Map Maker in trouble in the first place), Google seems confident that selecting “Regional Leads,” or high-powered users to keep an eye on things, will be sufficient when it comes to oversight.

With great power comes great responsibility, Map Makers, so don’t ruin it for the rest of us.