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March 29, 2008

“Google Bombing” a Unique Strategy to Voice Opinion

In an attempt to ensure that all opinions are voiced, Google Inc. has unintentionally taken up the cause of two of the least savory characters in the Middle East. By inaccurately using the moniker of “Arabian Gulf” as an alternative name for what has historically been known as the “Persian Gulf,” the Google Earth application is promoting the same geographically inaccurate term that was first used by the likes of Egyptian General Gamal Nasser and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the Pan-Arab movement of the 1960s.

This is not the first time that a major organization has mislabeled the Persian Gulf. In response to dialogue with NIAC, the National Geographic Society issued an apology for the same mistake Google is making and subsequently corrected their 8th edition maps. The widely used resource Wikipedia has acknowledged the debate in a very concrete way. Efforts made by NIAC have led to the search engine protecting the search result for “Persian Gulf,” from being edited by individuals seeking to promote the use of the term “Arabian Gulf.”
One example of protest by the Iranian-American community is that of the “Google Bomb.” When someone searches “Arabian Gulf” on Google, the first result is a link to a page that resembles an “Error 404” message. The humorous site explains the inaccuracy of the term and urges viewers to “read some history books” before searching again. The evidence supporting the claim is solid. The term “Persian Gulf” has been used for more than two millennium, while the term “Arabian Gulf” is actually an outdated term for what is now the Red Sea. It has been only been used to inaccurately describe the Persian Gulf for less than 50 years. What’s more, legal documents upheld by the United Nations verify the Persian Gulf as the sole, legitimate name.
NIAC is currently in the midst of a campaign to have Google correct their mistake. We have sent several letters and made multiple phone calls in an attempt to establish dialogue with the organization. Although Google has yet to respond to our request, we remain committed to this cause and deeply appreciate the support our fellow activists have given us.
The previously mentioned events exemplify important attempts to preserve and promote Iranian heritage. As long as people continue to use the term “Arabian Gulf,” we will continue to work in the name of geographic and cultural accuracy. The issue remains important both to those with Iranian heritage and to those who value accurate geography. In the meantime, creative strategies, such as that of “Google Bombing,” will continue to serve as both a source of entertainment and an important way to voice the opinion of the community.

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