Brazil Uses Google to Downplay Poverty

In what is almost a comical display of class bias, the city officials in Rio de Janeiro have complained to the media that Google Maps inaccurately portrays the capital city. Their complaint was that the Google mapping service left out the wealthier districts and tourist sites, which they say gives a “bad impression of the city.”

An article in the Brazilian newspaper Globo said that the Google maps of Rio pinpoint several of Rio’s more than 600 favelas, including some of the less well-known ones, but not enough wealthy neighbourhoods and tourist attractions.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a favela is the Brazilian Portuguese word for barrio; a shanty town that houses the poorest of the city in shacks made mostly of corrugated iron. These favelas are home to tens of thousands of people, and are a defining feature of life in Rio.

The newspaper claimed that the map gave a “false impression that the urban area is nothing more than an immense cluster of favelas… The maps turn Rio into a favela… Anyone who doesn’t know the city would be frightened.”

The class nature of this complaint is clear, the city officials and wealthy in the Rio area would like the predominance of poverty swept aside in favour of a tourism advertisement. This is not only an insult to the poor, but a blatant attempt to cover up the recent increase in poverty. It would please them only so much if they could just sweep the poor under the rug and pretend they don’t exist, so as not to offend the tourists.

Since the 2008 global economic collapse the country of Brazil (and Rio in particular) have suffered a great deal in the way of increasing poverty. Daily it is becoming more and more difficult for the average Brazilian to make ends meet in country where its cash crop has been devastated. As well as the in impact of the tourism industry in Rio. As poverty increases, the number of favelas have increased as well.

Felix Ximenes a spokesman for Google told the newspaper the company had never intended to “defame Rio”, and that the person who drew up the maps was a native of the city. He said it would be changed and that the favelas would still be marked, but only once the user had zoomed in.

Google has apologized for its mistake, however there is no word on an apology from Globo and the wealthy of Rio for the treatment of the poor and working class yet.