Amid numerous hacks, scams and edits on Google’s user-editable Map Maker tool, the search giant has today announced Map Maker’s closure to fend off further embarrassments which numerous edits brought to its freely-editable tool.
Announcing the decision via a forum post on Map Maker Forums, Google Product Manager Pavithra Kanakarajan says,
We have decided to temporarily disable editing across all countries starting Tuesday, May 12, 2015, till we have our moderation system back in action. This will be a temporary situation and one that we hope to come out of as soon as possible.
Pavithra further confirmed that the recent attacks on brands and other notable locations (like White House) by some of Map Maker’s more senior contributors, has prompted the company to review its content moderation systems and policies. Explaining the same, Pavithra further says,
As some of you know already, we have been experiencing escalated attacks to spam Google Maps over the past few months. The most recent incident was particularly troubling and unfortunate – a strong user in our community chose to go and create a large scale prank on the Map. As a consequence, we suspended auto-approval and user moderation across the globe, till we figured out ways to add more intelligent mechanisms to prevent such incidents.
We have been analyzing the problem and have made several changes. However, it is becoming clear that fixing some of this is actually going to take longer than a few days. As you can imagine, turning automated and user moderation off has the direct implication of very large backlogs of edits requiring manual review. This in turn means your edits will take a long time to get published.
Currently, all of map maker edits are undergoing manual reviewing, but that clearly is a long and tedious task considering the massiveness of a platform as large as Google Maps. Just to present some numbers, users from over 200 countries across the globe were able to edit Google Maps using Map Maker so as to add newer, undiscovered locations to Google’s mapping service.
The entire episode unfolded when a user designed a new location showing Google’s Android Bot peeing over Apple’s logo. While that wasn’t enough, another user planted a new location by the name of “Edwards Snow Den” right within the White House by exploiting a bug in Map Maker which allowed users to edit locations even after they have been listed.
The announcement, first spotted by blog SEO Roundtable, has notified that Map Maker will be suspended for all users starting May 12th. And while Google says this is temporary, it doesn’t specifically mention as to when users can expect the service to be back online.