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How activists used AI to alter Google Maps landmarks

How activists used AI to alter Google Maps landmarks


Google has reportedly removed dozens of images of Austrian landmarks from its popular map service. AFP reports that the altered photos were uploaded to Google Maps by environmental activists in the country to highlight the potential impacts of climate change. The report said that the activists used artificial intelligence (AI) to alter the images. The AI-generated images show the Danube River and Austrian lakes dried up and Alpine peaks bare of snow, as if they were taken in 2070. The images were reportedly uploaded to Google Maps by the Austrian activist group Letzte Generation (The Last Generation).

What Google said about images

Google said it removed the photo because it misrepresented a location. Our policies explicitly prohibit content that isn't based on real experiences or doesn't accurately represent a place. We remove photos that violate our policies in question,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to AFP.

What activists say about Google

The group said it was “not that surprised” by the company's actions. Let's Generation spokesperson Marina Hagen Canavall, speaking about Google, said they ignore the climate disaster, just like the authorities and big companies in general. The group also pointed out that this is not the first stunt. Previously, the group posted these photos on Google Maps to alert tourists. With this stunt, the activists wanted to warn tourists who use the service to prepare for their holidays about the risk of rising temperatures due to climate change. According to reports, Let's Generation has also carried out other protest stunts. This has also included blocking highways and has also promised to take further action, including on the Internet. Separately, Google Maps is reportedly planning to remove the “Followed Places” feature next year. After 2025, users will no longer be able to view or follow places within the app. The feature helped users to stay up to date and receive notifications about their favorite local businesses. These updates can include changes in opening hours, special offers, new menu items, etc.




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