Has the “Fake News” fear spread to GIS?

By GeoTel Communications

Bots, a technology used to assist companies in the analyses of files, are now being blamed for the creation of false maps. 

As one of the first means of communication and direction, maps have long held a certain level of esteem among individuals. The centuries-old science of Cartography or map making serves as the most distant relative to the current GIS technology. Since their existence, maps have ascertained a level of trust from their audiences. This is based on people’s dependence on maps as well as their role in shaping mankind’s history.

Bots serve by “allowing internet search companies to analyze millions of files on servers throughout the world.” This technology is used to power a significant portion of the web; however, maps have never been a fraction of the Bot powered portfolio.

Thus, recent reports that Bots are now being manipulated into creating false maps through mislabeled data sets, is causing fear of another “fake news” style fiasco in the GIS industry.

GIS data and technology such as GeoTel’s TeleTracker avoids the “Fake News” debacle completely by having a physical team of data monitors working 24/7 to ensure all data provided is accurate. Consequently, other GIS systems and map providers data can be easily taken and altered offering viewers a sense of false reality as individuals perceive the maps to be factual. Anthony Robinson, an assistant professor of geography at Penn State University said in an interview with Fast Company website “The factors of a map that conveys its underlying meaning have not changed which is a part of the problem.” He continues by expressing his feelings that “when viewing a map, regardless of the medium it is shared on, individuals should remain skeptical unless said maps content is explicitly explained and supported with sustainable data.”

The baseline issue then becomes determining which maps are “real” and which are “fake.” Unless using a platform such as TeleTracker that can ensure users an authentic map, the process becomes murky with a competition of Bots and false advertisements that produce maps from false data sets. It is not only the creation of such GIS data that should be concerning but the share of the market it consumes as well.