NEW YORK — New York City has lots of nicknames, but this isn’t one of them. Users of apps such as Snapchat, StreetEasy and Citi Bike were surprised to find New York renamed “Jewtropolis” on digital maps Thursday morning.
A report of the anti-Semitic label surfaced on Twitter as early as about 6 a.m. It stuck around for more than two hours and was seen as late as about 8:10 a.m. The old “New York” label had returned by 8:30 a.m.
Mapbox, the company that powers the maps, blamed the offensive name on vandalism but admitted a “human error” played a role. The upsetting information was removed within an hour, the company said.
“Security experts are working to determine the exact origin of this malicious hate speech,” the company said in a statement. “We apologize to customers and users who were exposed to this disgusting attack.”
Snapchat and Citi Bike similarly pointed to vandalism of the third-party mapping data it uses from Mapbox, which serves several other apps and has been used by publications such as Vice and the Financial Times.
The glitch prompted an outcry on Twitter, where several people called the false name anti-Semitic and racist.
“Idk, doesn’t ‘Jewtropolis’ strike you as a little racist, @Snap?” one person wrote.
“Yo wtf @streeteasy I know we like our bagels but f— man… ‘jewtropolis’?” said another.
Mapbox’s artificial intelligence system flags thousands of map changes each day for human review, the company said. The AI spotted the “Jewtropolis” smear, but a human error “in the manual part of the review process” led to the incident, Mapbox said.
Mapbox said its maps are made from over 130 sets of data. Among the sources it uses is OpenStreetMap, a Wikipedia-style map that anyone can edit. One OpenStreetMap user named MedwedianPresident allegedly changed New York’s name to “Jewtropolis” earlier this month, BuzzFeed News reported.
MedwedianPresident reportedly has a penchant for online skullduggery — the person has also renamed several streets to names such as “Donald Trump Avenue” and “Adolf Hitler Boulevard,” according to BuzzFeed.
Mapbox acknowledged that Thursday’s change was made by “a source that attempted several other hateful edits,” though no additional attempts were successful.
(Lead image: Screenshot by Jennifer Mishler/Used with permission)
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