Several popular apps, including Snapchat, found themselves the target of social media outrage on Thursday morning after some users noticed that New York had been renamed “Jewtropolis” on its maps feature.
The company responded on Twitter by noting that it doesn’t power its own maps. It said the maps are powered by Mapbox, an open-source platform that says it receives data from over 1 million developers. The controversy highlights ongoing issues facing open-source platforms, which are not always subject to strict moderation. As the Verge points out, Google Maps has also seen similar instances of pranks and vandalism.
“Snap Map, similar to other apps, relies on third party mapping data from OpenStreetMap, which unfortunately has been vandalized,” the company told HuffPost in an emailed statement. “This defacement is deeply offensive and entirely contrary to our values, and we want to apologize to any members of our community who saw it. We are working with our partner Mapbox to fix this as quickly as possible.”
Users also pointed out the slur appeared on StreetEasy and Citi Bike, which use Mapbox as well. Citi Bike addressed the issue by also pointing to Mapbox.
Mapbox CEO Eric Gundersen told TechCrunch that the incident “should have never happened. It’s disgusting.” He said that their system uses a combination of both automated and human moderation to check for issues but that it’s “an error on our part” that the slur managed to slip through the cracks.