New York City residents awoke this morning to find that their city had been renamed — they are, as of now, residents of “Jewtropolis.” On maps available on a number of apps, including Snapchat, the Weather Channel, and Citi Bike, NYC was given its new problematic name thanks to some vandals taking advantage of the open web.
The simple explanation for this is that all of these companies use a service called Mapbox, a company that basically makes it so that your tech company doesn’t have to build a worldwide geographic database itself. Corrupt Mapbox, and you’ll corrupt everyone hooked into its data set. Reached for comment, Snapchat said it was working on resolving the issue.
Here is how Mapbox describes how it builds its data set (emphasis added):
Mapbox Streets is a Mapbox-provided tileset that includes features like streets, buildings, and places from all around the world. The Mapbox Streets tileset is powered by open data from OpenStreetMap. Think of OpenStreetMap as the Wikipedia of maps. It’s a project founded on the belief that when data is open, everyone can work together to build the map. Anyone can quickly add roads and buildings to keep up with a changing world.
Admittedly, if you’re going to build a mapping database to compete with the likes of Google or Microsoft, the cheapest, most efficient way to do it is to crowdsource everything. That’s why Mapbox, itself a middleware provider, uses data from OpenStreetMap, and that’s where the data came from.
As BuzzFeed points out, a vandal on OSM had previously renamed NYC as “Jewtropolis” earlier this month (though its unclear if the same user did it again this week). They also renamed several streets with names “Donald Trump Avenue,” “Zionist Cannibal Drive,” and “Pedophile Bridge,” and masked their edits by titling them with innocuous changes like “Minor changes in the City of London.”
OpenStreetMap’s data appears to have been corrected and sanitized, and Mapbox should sync up in the near future. In the meantime, uh, enjoy your time in “Jewtropolis.” Make sure to grab a bagel with a shmear.