Some Snapchat users awoke Thursday morning to find New York City renamed "Jewtropolis" on the app's maps features. The anti-Semitic label also appeared on Citi Bike apps and StreetEasy, and other companies that use the mapping service Mapbox.
On Snapchat’s Snap Map, New York City appears as “Jewtropolis.” A screenshot I just took: pic.twitter.com/rAlPXjjLOd
— Hamza Shaban (@hshaban) August 30, 2018
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, the third party that provides map functionality to @SnapMap, @nytimes, @CitiBikeNYC, and many others, was the subject of vandalism as New York City now displayed as "Jewtropolis". pic.twitter.com/nq7sFltg1P
— Aoife Gallagher (@aoifegall) August 30, 2018
"Jewtropolis" replaced Manhattan on Snap Map, a location-sharing feature the app rolled out last summer. It allows Snapchatters to tell friends and followers where they are and what they're up to, or to simply observe other users' movements in undetectable "ghost mode." In an early morning tweet addressing the incident, Snapchat said that "Snap Map relies on third party mapping data which has unfortunately been subject to vandalism. We are working closely with our partner Mapbox to get this fixed immediately." (We have reached out to Snapchat and Mapbox for comment, and will update if we hear back.)
Hey Dan! Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Snap Map relies on third party mapping data which has unfortunately been subject to vandalism. We are working with our partner Mapbox to get this fixed immediately.
— Snapchat Support (@snapchatsupport) August 30, 2018
In a statement to TechCrunch, Mapbox CEO and founder Eric Gundersen said the problem "is now 100 percent fixed and should have never happened."
"It’s disgusting," he added, explaining that Mapbox uses both real people and AI to police these types of incidents. "We're constantly scanning for this, and it’s an error on our part [to have missed it]."
In a statement sent to Gothamist, Mapbox elaborated on what happened:
"Mapbox has a zero tolerance policy against hate speech and any malicious edits to our maps. This morning, the label of “New York City” on our maps was vandalized. Within an hour, our team deleted and removed that information. The malicious edit was made by a source that attempted several other hateful edits. Our security team has confirmed no additional attempts were successful.
"We build systems so this does not happen. Our maps are made from over 130 different sets of data, and we have a strong double validation monitoring system. Our preliminary root cause analysis shows that this act of hate speech was properly detected immediately and put into quarantine for human review.
"Typically, our validation system prevents malicious edits from entering the system from any third party data source. Our AI system flags more than 70,000 map changes a day for human review. While our AI immediately flagged this, in the manual part of the review process a human error led to this incident.
"Security experts are working to determine the exact origin of this malicious hate speech. We apologize to customers and users who were exposed to this disgusting attack.”
Gizmodo reports that, for users whose maps were affected by the hack, zooming in and out changed the location name from "New York" to "Jewtropolis." At time of writing, the offensive label appears to have been removed.
Anti-Semitic hate crimes have become more and more frequent in recent years, spiking by 57 percent in 2017 after a significant surge in 2016. That this trend coincides with the rise of a realtor-slash-politician who's had a hard time disavowing white nationalist groups does not seem like a coincidence to me.