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Google Redraws the Borders on Maps Depending on Who's Looking


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A map depicting the borders of Kashmir, territory claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Web surfers in India see Kashmir as fully under Indian control in Google Maps, while elsewhere, users see the regions snaking outlines as a dotted line.

Credit: www.mapsofindia.com

Google and other online mapmakers revise borders depending on who is viewing them, in deference to diplomats, policymakers, and their own executives, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Google Maps' Ethan Russell said Google is neutral on issues like border disputes and strives to portray such disputes objectively with a dashed gray border line.

The company also complies with local statutes when showing names and borders in nations that host local versions of Google Maps.

Google Maps are compiled from satellite imagery, computer models, and hand-drawn borders and landmarks, but Google also consults with local governments and other officials, which can result in maps that do not align with international consensus.

The University of Southern California's Elisabeth Sedano said, "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. Subtle changes may not seem so subtle to the people living there."

From The Washington Post
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