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Google Maps renamed a Senate office building for John McCain - then quickly corrected the mistake

September 25, 2018

A Senate office building was temporarily renamed for the late senator John McCain on Google Maps.

When Web users typed the words “Russell Senate Office Building” into Google search, a map display brought up a location designated as the “McCain Senate Office Building.”

Days after McCain’s death on Saturday at age 81, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed renaming the congressional building after the Arizona senator to honor his legacy as a Vietnam War POW and his more than three decades of service in Congress. But some Senate Republicans are resisting the idea of stripping the name of Sen. Richard Russell Jr., for whom the building is currently named. Russell was a Democratic senator for 38 years and led Southern opposition to civil rights as a segregationist. His record inspired previous efforts to rename the Russell building, but those initiatives failed.

Late Wednesday morning, Google Maps showed that the location listing had reverted to its proper name.

It’s not clear how or why the entry for the Russell building was renamed on the Google listing. The search giant told The Washington Post on Wednesday: “We empower people to contribute their local knowledge to the map, but we recognize that there may be occasional inaccuracies or premature changes suggested by users. When this happens, we work to address as quickly as possible. We have implemented a fix for this issue that is rolling out now.”

Web users can suggest edits to locations displayed on Google Maps, according to the Google Maps Help Web page: “You can tell us about incorrect business details, wrong road names, or other data errors on the map.” These suggested edits are then reviewed by Google or Google Maps users before they show up on the map, the website said. But as Google indicated, users can intentionally suggest false corrections.

The map issue came a day after President Donald Trump accused Google of rigging search results for “Trump News” in a way that minimized the visibility of conservative media outlets and emphasized more critical news stories.

In responding, Google said that its goal is to make sure that users searching for information get the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds. “Search is not used to set a political agenda, and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology,” the company said.

Earlier this week Trump ignited another political firestorm when he chose to offer condolences to McCain’s family on Twitter but did not issue a formal White House statement. He ordered flags on federal office buildings to fly at half-staff. But less than 48 hours after McCain’s family announced the senator’s death from brain cancer, the flag atop the White House was raised to full-staff. Detractors, including veterans groups and Democrats and Republicans, saw the flag-raising as a sign of disrespect toward McCain.

Later on Monday, the White House flag was lowered again, to remain so until McCain’s interment. Trump issued a statement praising the senator - but only after facing rounds of intense criticism.

Trump and McCain had a tense relationship before the senator’s death. As McCain suffered through brain cancer, the president publicly snubbed him, declining to refer to McCain during a recent ceremony when he signed a major defense bill that was named for the senator. Trump has also denigrated McCain’s military service, saying during his presidential campaign that McCain - who spent years as a POW after his plane was shot down in 1967 during the Vietnam War - was “not a war hero.”

McCain had publicly criticized Trump throughout his presidency, especially on foreign policy, denouncing Trump’s comments during a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July.

While former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are scheduled to deliver eulogies this weekend at McCain’s funeral, Trump was not invited.

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