A curious thing has been happening on Google Maps -- the Lincoln Memorial is being misplaced in favor of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which is a good half a mile south of the more famous memorial.
According to the Geographic Travels blog, this "misplacement" has been happening for about two days now. Typing "Lincoln Memorial" into the regular Google search bar brings up a number of listings related to the Lincoln Memorial, yet shows a map of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. (Click on the image to see the map that's being served up.)
Is this a Google Maps glitch, or could this have anything to do with the fact that conservative radio and TV host Glenn Beck is holding a controversial "non-political" rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday?
Beck's rally, which is called the "Restoring Honor" rally, is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern Time today on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The rally purports to be non-political, and will "pay tribute to America's service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation's founding principles of integrity, truth, and honor," according to Beck. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin are expected to host.
The rally has been the cause of quite a bit of controversy, with Democrat Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) calling the rally "blatantly political." The event also coincides with the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march on Washington and speech (which was given on the same steps of the Lincoln Memorial). Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton criticized Beck's choice of holding the rally on the same day as MLK's historic speech, saying that while "they have the right to rally," they don't have the right to "distort what Dr. King's dream was about."
"They're having an anti-government march on a day King came to appeal to the government. You can't have it both ways," Rev. Sharpton said in a press conference on Friday.
Playing with Searches?
If the misplacement of the Lincoln Memorial on Google Maps is, in fact, an example of Google censoring search results, then it's not the first time. Google has previously removed controversial search results from its listings, including White Nationalist, anti-Semitic, and radical Islamic results from German and French Google search results.
Until 2010, Google also censored search results in China, including websites that supported Taiwanese and Tibetan independence movements. However, after a mid-December attack on Google's servers (targeting the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists), Google stopped censoring its search in China and threatened to pull out of China altogether. Google and the Chinese government failed to reach an agreement on censorship, and so Google redirected Google.cn to its Hong Kong site (google.com.hk), which is outside the jurisdiction of China's censorship laws.
As the Geographic Travels blog points out, this is probably not so much an attempt to have nobody show up for the rally (after all, the Roosevelt Memorial is only a half a mile from the Lincoln Memorial--if the estimated 300,000 people show up, there's no doubt that you'll be able to see the crowd from the Roosevelt Memorial), but more an attempt to show Glenn Beck who's boss (of the search engines). Beck famously hates Roosevelt, and has often said things like "there was a good portion of people that thought, 'Holy cow, I'm glad [Roosevelt]'s dead."