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Home / Business / New York City is briefly referred to as "Jetropolis" on Snapchat and other apps

New York City is briefly referred to as "Jetropolis" on Snapchat and other apps



Users of a variety of popular apps and services, including Snapchat, woke up Thursday morning to find that New York City was referred to as the "Jetropolis" on the maps displayed in their apps.

Twitter users quickly took screenshots of maps, calling them racist and anti-Semitic. Maps on Snapchat, Citi Bike, StreetEasy, and even the New York Times all seemed to be affected.

All use embeddable third-party maps called Mapbox. The company's CEO, Eric Gundersen, said in an interview that unhappiness is the "ugliest kind" of failure.

Mapbox creates its maps with more than 130 different datasets, including data from a world map called OpenStreetMap which is free to use and built by volunteers. One of the volunteers has done more than 80 anti-Semitic or hateful work in places around the world, including New York, Gundersen said.

Changes to map data – about 70,000 per day – are displayed by a computer and checked by people before they are published, Mr. Gundersen said. One human critic stopped all other antisemitic edits made on Thursday, but served the "Yevtropolis" section live.

The bug was caught and fixed within an hour, Mapbox said. The company is investigating why the human investigator has published the label and plans to add additional layers of review, Mr. Gundersen said.

"Hate speech online is terrible," he said. "The Internet should be safe, cards should be safe."

Many expressed their concerns about the label on social media on Thursday morning.

Some of the companies in question said they had contacted Mapbox as soon as they became aware of the Internet bug and asked the company to fix it.

Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, apologized to its users Thursday and called the error "deeply offensive". A spokeswoman for StreetEasy said the company was "deeply sorry" the error had surfaced on its website. A spokeswoman for Motivate, the company that runs Citi Bike, said Mapbox should make sure that "disgusting bows like these do not reappear."

Mapbox essentially provides the base layer of the map. Companies like The New York Times then record their own data on this base layer to create maps like this detailed map of 2016 election.

Mapbox says more than 420 million people use their cards every month. The company's customers include Lonely Planet, CNN, Pinterest and Evernote. It is unclear how many people saw or changed the card with the wrong name before it was repaired, Gundersen said.