Google Maps’ New Buddhist “Swastika”


I’m already getting comments — including from Buddhists — suggesting that Google Maps’ new iconography tagging Buddhist temples with the ancient symbol that is perceived by most people today as a Nazi swastika is problematic at best, and is likely to be widely misinterpreted. I agree. I’m wondering if Google consulted with the Buddhist community before making this choice. If not, now is definitely the time to do so.

–Lauren–

UPDATE (November 16, 2017): Google tells me that they are restricting use of this symbol to areas like Japan “where it is understood” and are using a different symbol for localization in most other areas. I follow this reasoning, but it’s unclear that it avoids the problems with such a widely misunderstood symbol. For example, I’ve received concerns about this from Buddhists in Japan, who fear that the symbol will be “latched onto” by haters in other areas. And indeed, I’ve already been informed of “Nazi Japan” posts from the alt-right that cite this symbol. The underlying question is whether or not such a “hot button” symbol can really be restricted by localization into not being misunderstood in other areas and causing associated problems. That’s a call for Google to make, of course.

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