Near the end of last month, it was discovered within Google Maps that there was some inappropriate content which was displayed in a couple of specific locations. It wasn’t long before it was found out that the content was user-created, using Google’s Map Maker tool which the system actually heavily relies on to help fill out local areas of Maps to give it a more comprehensive overview. While this particular set of user-created content was little more than harmless prank so to speak, Google refers to it as “particularly troubling” and it drew attention to the fact that there could be a better system in place to prevent this sort of content from making it into a widely used service.
A mere few weeks later following this event, Google is now suspending the Map Maker tool temporarily until they can come up with a better solution on how to stop attacks on the Maps service. In a Google Group today the search company has announced the temporary disabling of the tool, stating that they have suspended auto-approval and user moderation across the globe until they can find out a smarter way to prevent these kinds of actions using the Map Maker tool. For now the tool is still available and all edits are simply going through a manual review process before being allowed to be published and entered into Google Maps.
Starting tomorrow, May 12th, Google will effectively take the Map Maker offline until further notice, as they can’t continue to keep up with the amount of incoming user-created edits to have reviewed manually. Essentially things are getting backlogged and publishing times are getting increasingly longer due to the amount of edits being submitted. Google hopes that by suspending use of the tool completely they can reach a solution for the moderation tool faster, which can then in turn allow them to bring Map Maker back online and re-introduce a much faster process for getting user-created content reviewed, approved, and published. It’s a tad bit unfortunate as the Google Maps team has an easier time with the Map Maker tool in place, but in the end it’s for the better of the system.