All the Takes You’re About to See on the NYC-Snapchat Map Vandalism

Bill Morris
Aug 30, 2018 · 3 min read

That’s right folks, it happened - an OpenStreetMap vandal made it to prime time:

About three weeks ago, some roblox-loving, likely-gamergater mini-nazi decided to re-label New York City in OSM (along with a bunch of other landmarks). It was almost immediately caught and reverted by community members, but it somehow slipped through the Mapbox review process and made it into production today long enough for some users to notice it (though it’s since been fixed):

As with any scandalous digital f***up, there’s going to be a certain amount of ink spilled over this incident. Mapbox CEO Eric Gunderson called it “disgusting”. Ashley Feinberg made comic lemonade. As I considered the angles, I realized I’m in the perfect position of ethnographer-of-the-map-people to just write the potential bluster in one go. So, for your convenience, here are all the takes you’re about to see:

Take 1: Wait, there are editable maps?

Likely venue: Vox

Take 2: This is OpenStreetMap’s fault

Likely venue: Sponsored press release on TechCrunch from a VP at Here or TomTom (but not Google, because they’ve . . . um . . . been here already)

Apple thinks this too, but they won’t say it.

Take 3: This is Mapbox’s fault

Likely venue: The OSM mailing lists

Sigh.

Take 4: Blockchain saves

Likely venue: Medium

Maybe the hammer has finally found a nail?

Take 5: It’s open season

Likely venue: 4chan

Real talk: this last one worries me . OpenStreetMap is a community of people, and even with some automated moderation assistance, it’s really vulnerable to concerted efforts at vandalization. We’re fortunate to have active and alert mappers who can catch things quickly when they happen one-off, but any #opendata project eventually has to deal with the goddamned nazis, and I’m not sure there’s a plan for it in OSM.

Hit me up if I missed any takes. I’m not an all-seeing eye, people.

Bill Morris

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maps, crops, landscapes and geographic consciousness. wrangles data for faraday inc.