Google Maps tries to chart out the globe for more than a billion users around the world. But it’s not so simple when those people disagree on where the lines should be drawn. So the search giant displays political borders differently depending on where a viewer is, according to a report Friday by The Washington Post.
For example, take Kashmir, the region that India and Pakistan have fought over for more than 70 years. Maps viewers in Pakistan and elsewhere see the borders drawn as a dotted line, indicating a dispute. But in India, people see a solid line that shows it as part of India, the report says. Other labels are different too. The body of water separating Japan and South Korea is widely displayed as the Sea of Japan. But in South Korea, it’s the East Sea.
The discrepancies give a glimpse at how Google and other Silicon Valley giants operate when confronted with political sensitivities related to world governments. The challenge of disputed regions isn’t a new problem — printed mapmakers have to deal with it, too — but the speed and connectedness of software can make the difference appear more jarring.