StreetEasy users browsing for Manhattan apartments yesterday were greeted with an offensive slur in place of the name New York City, thanks to a contributor attacking the database for Mapbox, the company that supplies the map technology for StreetEasy and others.
“This morning the label over New York City was changed by a malicious contributor via one of our data sources,” Eric Gunderson, CEO of Mapbox wrote in a company blog post. “This hate speech attack is disgusting. Within an hour of discovering the edit, our team deleted and removed it, but the slur was live on our maps.”
Whatever mapping service that Snapchat, CitiBike, StreetEasy, (perhaps others) use — it seems — is showing New York City as “Jewtropolis” this morning. pic.twitter.com/nsVe8goLyo
— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) August 30, 2018
Mapbox’s internal investigation revealed that the edit to New York City’s label was part of a series of hateful attacks by the same individual. The other edits were blocked, but the New York label was mistakenly approved.
The label was removed in less than an hour and the individual behind the attack has since been removed from the platform, according to Mapbox.
Mapbox has a proprietary program that reviews all edits that come in from OpenStreetMap and other data sources, and according to the company the program automatically flags suspicious edits using predictive models on profanity or contentious terms. On an average day, the site reviews approximately 70,000 changes and blocks around 50 incidents of vandalism.
In this case, the review process did not mark the term “Jew” in the edit as an additional risk.
“The review process did not mark the term ‘Jew’ in the edit as an additional risk, given that it is a common word in valid labels,” Gunderson wrote.
The result, was that users of StreetEasy, Snapchat, Citibike, the Weather Channel and other platforms that use Mapbox, briefly saw New York City referred to as “Jewtropolis.”
“An issue with one of our third-party map vendors resulted in an offensive term appearing on some StreetEasy maps yesterday morning, which isn’t something that we tolerate,” a spokeswoman for StreetEasy said in a statement. “We are deeply sorry and addressed it as soon as we knew, replacing those maps on our site while the vendor worked on a fix.”
StreetEasy was the only one of Zillow’s properties that was impacted by the vandalism.