The outrage that followed Google’s removal of the label Palestine from its mapping service website quickly fizzled after it became clear that Google didn’t remove the label Palestine from its mapping service.
In fact, a Google spokesperson explained, the term has never been used as a label on Google Maps. (Many countries don’t recognize a state of Palestine. The Palestine Liberation Organization, moreover, is party to an international agreement stating that borders must be negotiated with Israel.)
Nonetheless, some journalists credulously echoed the claim that Google “erased” Palestine from the map. Russian propaganda outfits Sputnik News Agency and RT perhaps unsurprisingly spread the misinformation. So did their Qatari counterpart, AJ+:
Some people are slamming Google for removing Palestine from its maps.https://t.co/rki03ajW6y
— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 9, 2016
Even a Reuters reporter unquestioningly accepted the false allegation:
— Mehreen Zahra-Malik (@mehreenzahra) August 9, 2016
They all should have known better — not only because skepticism is a core journalistic value, but also because the source of the allegation was a group linked to the radical, anti-Semitic Hamas organization.
The Washington Post reported that “when a Gaza City-based journalism group claimed that the nation of Palestine had literally been wiped from Google’s maps, readers were, well — indignant.” That journalism group, the Post explained, is the Palestinian Journalists’ Forum. Reports in the Huffington Post, Mashable, Al Arabiya and others likewise cited the Palestinian Journalists’ Forum statement as the instigator of the online outrage.
The statement in question doesn’t exactly project credibility. Those accepting its claims at face value should have seen red flags in its description of Israel as a “cancerous” entity — and its insistence that Google emphasize the country’s cancerousness. The statement also blames the purported deletion of the word Palestine on a conspiracy by the Zionist lobby. Google “is part of the Israeli scheme to establish its name as a legitimate state for generations to come and abolish Palestine once and for all,” Al Arabiya translates the PJF statement as saying.