SSI’s Lisa Sedano comments on Google’s policy of contested borders

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When is a border is not really a border?

If you’re looking at Google maps In areas where borders are disputed, the view you see depends upon your location.

In the February 14, 2020 Washington Post article “Google redraws the borders on maps depending on who’s looking,” reporter Greg Bensinger points out that Google and other online mapmakers follow the local policies of the jurisdictions when displaying names and borders. In this quest for neutrality, the result is that the online maps will show different things to people in different countries. For example, Google map users in South Korea will see the body of water between Japan and the Korean Peninsula identified as “the East Sea,” whereas viewers outside of South Korea will see that body of water identified as “the Sea of Japan.”

SSI’s Elisabeth Sedano observed, “Country borders are inherently political, but it would probably surprise some Americans to learn that Google is effectively doing the bidding of autocratic governments on its maps.” Sedano, a lecturer of spatial sciences, added, “Subtle changes may not seem so subtle to the people living there.”

Read more in the Washington Post article and see Sedano interviewed in this Washington Post video:

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