Israeli city demands that Google Earth erase Palestinian claim -- Google says no

Officials in the small city of Kiryat Yam have filed an official police complaint to force Google to settle in its favor an Arab-Israeli land dispute.

(Update: Google tells me it's not their job. See below.)

At issue is this user-generated notation placed on the image of Kiryat Yam that is visible via Google Earth:

This is one of the Palestinian localities evacuated and destroyed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. For basic information about this locality, including brief history, the 1948 events, its current status, pictures and statistics, visit: www.palestineremembered.com.

The notation is labeled Arab Ghawarina.

Kiryat Yam officials contend that the passage is patently false, according to this Arutz Shiva report:

Those who see Kiryat Yam on Google Earth are told that the city was built on the ruins of an Arab town from which innocent civilians were expelled. In fact, officials said, the city was built by Holocaust survivors on land that was completely barren and had not been settled in the past. The false information was placed as part of a deliberate attempt to hurt the city's interests, they said.

I've been unable to ascertain whether the city approached Google directly for relief - one would presume it did - or how Google replied. I have a request in to the Google press office.

(Update, Google's reply:)

   While we recognize that some may find the user generated content objectionable, we are careful to balance the integrity of an open forum with the legal requirements of local governments. It looks as though this particular user-contributed annotation does not breach our Terms and Conditions nor is it in any way illegal.

   The Google Earth community layer is a place where people can tag their knowledge or opinions of a location. Their comments are clearly indicated with the 'I' icon and this layer can easily be switched on and off.

   We believe the majority of people use the community positively to share their expertise and experiences. In most cases, our users increase the utility of the product and provide a more meaningful and robust experience for each other with their contributions to the Google Earth community.

The matter was first brought to my attention by the author of Israel-On-Blog, who tells me via e-mail that the story was featured on television news there today, so it has the makings of a genuine international incident, of which Google seems to attract more than its share.

(Update 2: The International Herald Tribune has more details, including comment from the man responsible for the dispute notation. He says he's amenable to moving the notation if it is proven incorrect.)

(Update 3, Feb. 15: Seems Google has another cartographical controversy on its hands, this one having to do with its decision to rename the Persian Gulf. ... They can do that?)

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