Fact check: Google does not have a Palestine label on its maps

The claim: No label for Palestine on Google Maps

In 2016, #PalestineIsHere began trending after supporters of the Palestinian cause condemned Google for supposedly removing the word “Palestine” from Google Maps, according to the New York Times.

But Google did not do that, because the label was never there.

Now, that decision is drawing renewed focus amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Care to point out the location of Palestine? The photo was taken from Google maps which is a Leftist company. This should tell you something. #standwithisrael,” reads a May 17 Facebook post.

The post drew more than 3,500 likes and 900 shares in the first week. USA TODAY reached out to the user for comment, to which they said “America doesn’t recognize (Palestine) as a nation.”

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No ‘Palestine’ label on Google Maps

When searching for “Palestine” on Google Maps, the map zooms in on the Israel-Palestine region, and both the Gaza Strip and West Bank territories are labeled and separated by dotted lines. But there is no label for Palestine.

“Since there remains no clear consensus across international governing bodies on (Palestine) territory, we cannot reliably depict and label its borders in Google Maps at this time,” Google said in an email statement. 

Other major mapping companies approach this decision in different ways. When doing a general search for “Palestine,” here’s what happens:

  • Apple Maps, similar to Google, zooms in on the region but doesn’t label anything as Palestine.
  • Bing Maps identifies a point on the map and labels it as “Palestine.”
  • MapQuest identifies a point on the map and labels it as ‘State of Palestine.’
  • Yandex Maps outlines Palestine’s borders and labels it as ‘Palestine.’

Palestine is recognized as an independent state by the United Nations and more than 135 of its members, but it is not recognized by the U.S., according to History. The United Nations considers it a single occupied entity, but the official borders are undetermined, BBC News reported.

Google said that as part of its efforts to provide a more comprehensive map, it published Street View imagery of the West Bank in 2017, specifically Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jericho.

An online petition asking Google to add a label for Palestine has accumulated more than 2.1 million signatures on Change.org.

“The original target was 1 million signatures, which was reached in July 2020,” said Zak Martin, who created the petition.

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Our rating: True

The claim that Palestine is not labeled on Google Maps is TRUE, based on our research. The company said it displays any disputed borders as a dashed gray line, and it includes labels and dashed lines for the Gaza Strip and West Bank on its maps. A Google statement said the company doesn’t label Palestine’s borders since there is no general agreement on the bodies that make up its territory.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • Facebook post, May 17
  • New York Times, Aug. 11, 2016, No, Google Says, It Did Not Delete ‘Palestine’ From Its Maps
  • Change.org, GOOGLE: Put Palestine On Your Maps!, accessed May 18
  • Washington Post, Aug. 9, 2016, Google Maps did not ‘delete’ Palestine — but it does impact how you see it
  • Washington Post, Nov. 7, 2014, Map: The countries that recognize Palestine as a state
  • History, Aug. 11, 2017, Palestine
  • BBC News, Sept. 16, 2020, Israel’s borders explained in maps
  • Fox News, May 3, 2013, Google changes Palestinian location from ‘Territories’ to ‘Palestine’
  • Reuters, Nov. 29, 2012, Palestinians win de facto U.N. recognition of sovereign state
  • United States Courts glossary, accessed May 21
  • Mondoweiss, June 3, 2019, Palestinian cities are ghost towns between settlements, on Google Maps
  • Tasnim News Agency, July 17, 2020, Social Media Users Slam Google, Apple for Deleting Palestine From Their Maps
  • Google, May 20, email exchange with USA TODAY

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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