In Libya, Google Maps Changes Landmarks to Recognize Rebels’ Progress

In Libya, Google wasted no time expressing solidarity with rebel forces.

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Yesterday, as rebel forces in Libya wrested control over the capital city of Tripoli from the authoritarian regime of Moammar Gaddafi, news broke and changed quickly.

A report was first issued and then redacted that Gaddafi’s son, Saif Gaddafi, had been turned over to the rebels. The Libyan state TV network was seized and coopted and began broadcasting pro-rebel messages instead of state-sanctioned news.

But even though the rebel forces are still a long way off from creating any kind of coalition government and officially assuming control of the country, Google was already responding to the rebels’ claims, even before Gaddafi’s government was officially deposed.

As the rebels stormed into Tripoli, they pronounced the city’s Green Square, named so decades ago by Gaddafi, renamed as “Martyr’s Square.”

Within hours, Green Square had changed to Martyr’s Square on Google Maps.

Google has championed pro-democracy rebels throughout the Arab Spring. It was a Google employee, Wael Ghonim, who was largely credited with sparking Egypt’s pro-democracy movement via social media, and the search giant partnered with Twitter to provide work-arounds when Mubarak’s government cut off phone and internet service in the country to help protesters continue their movement.

While it appears today that some of yesterday’s reports may have been premature—Saif Gaddafi, for instance, is not actually in rebel custody—the political landscape is shifting quickly in Libya, and Google is wasting no time in expressing solidarity with the rebels and recognizing them as the authority when it comes to naming landmarks.