How Reporters Without Borders used a loophole on Google Maps to fight censorship. 
2017 was a dark year for journalism, with 65 reporters killed and 326 held in jail. Oppressive governments create a dangerous environment for journalists and suppress freedom of information. Without journalism, the world becomes less open and people outside the affected countries can't get information about what’s going on in countries that are more closed.
Turning censored quotes from journalists into freedom billboards.
We gathered quotes from journalists that had been silenced, threatened or even murdered, and republished them on billboards in the countries they originated from - but on Google Street View. Free for everyone to see, impossible for repressive governments to censor. ​​​​​​​
“Reporters Without Borders has been planting digital Easter eggs around the world, and they might come as quite a shock to those who stumble across them”
But how do you upload billboards to Google Maps?
A large part of Google Street View is user generated, meaning anyone can contribute. We simply downloaded existing panoramas containing billboards from Google Maps, added our own billboards in Photoshop and then uploaded the new spherical images to the real Street View, visible for everyone.
The billboards stayed on Google Street View for 72 hours.
And then what we were anticipating happened - Google took down the campaign for violating Google Maps policy. Using the takedown, we managed to create a second wave of coverage. American CNBC made a big feature covering the take down, as well the irony of Google removing a censorship campaign, which once again made us come through with the main message behind the initiative - the continued importance of fighting for freedom of speech everywhere.
“Google Street View removes freedom of speech posters”
Back to Top