On Thursday, Ukraine’s Special State Communications Service called claims that Google Maps “tags” were used by the Russian military as “another fake”. In a message to his official telegram channelThe country’s intelligence agency has debunked a wave of social media rumors that Russian insurgents marked the locations of airstrikes on Google Maps of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.
The agency described these false statements as a psychological operation “to sow panic and disinformation among the population”.
On Tuesday, in response to allegations that its maps were being used to coordinate Russian military activity in Ukraine, Google began removing user-submitted locations inside the borders of Russia, Ukraine and the United States. Belarus. The company is removing new content such as photos and commercial information “out of an abundance of caution,” a Google spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
People on social media platforms on Tuesday accused Google Maps of hosting content allegedly used to target airstrikes on cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv.
“The tags in Google Maps were created on February 28, and people noticed that the tags correspond to the places where the missiles strike today,” one of these individuals, Oleksandr Balatskyi, told BuzzFeed News in a DM Twitter. People claimed that tags, or user-generated pins, started popping up yesterday with titles like “ФЕРМЕРСЬКЕ ГОСПОДАРСТВО”, or Ukrainian for “farm”, and “СІЛЬСКЕ ГОСПОДАРСТВО”, or Ukrainian for “agriculture”.
BuzzFeed News could not independently verify the existence of specific pins, nor the claim that the Russian military added them to Google Maps. Dozens of Twitter users shared the same set of screenshots showing pins labeled “ФЕРМЕРСЬКЕ ГОСПОДАРСТВО” in Kyiv, although it is unclear when and by whom they were created.
After investigating the claims, Google said some of the changes referring to farms were made over a year ago. Still, the company said it was removing changes made to maps of the region since Feb. 24 and would pause new changes.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we are removing user contributions such as photos, videos, reviews, and business information, as well as all locations submitted by Google Maps users in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus since the start of the invasion, and temporarily block further changes made,” a Google spokesperson said.
Google also told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that it is implementing analysis of map data from Ukraine to detect and remove inaccurate business information.