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Google Maps Blamed for Nicaraguan Invasion of Costa Rica

Google Maps and Bing
We've seen Google Maps misplace cities and mislead pedestrians, but we never thought the navigational service's occasional inaccuracies could spark an international conflict -- until now.

It all began when Nicaraguan military commander Eden Pastora sent a group of troops into a region around San Juan Lake, near the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Upon arriving, the soldiers promptly set up camp, and began tearing down Costa Rican flags that had been inexplicably planted in Nicaraguan soil. Turns out, however, that the flags were there because the region in which the soldiers were stationed was not Nicaragua, but Costa Rica.

Pastora, you see, had been misled by Google Maps, which had given an inaccurate representation of where the border actually was. Instead of doing some routine military maintenance in their own region, Pastora's men had inadvertently invaded their neighbors. Oops. Pastora immediately acknowledged the mistake, but that didn't stop Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla from going on national TV last night to urge her citizens to "be calm and firm, amid the outrage that these events provoke within us." (Check out the full story from Costa Rica's La Nacion in Spanish, or in Google translation.)

A Google spokesperson told La Nacion that the company couldn't explain the source of the error, or where the Nicaraguan commander found the map. As Search Engine Land points out, though, Pastora could've avoided this snafu by using Bing's map service, which provides a substantially more authentic rendering of the region. Moral of the story: If you want geographic accuracy, use Bing. If you want geopolitical acrimony, use Google.

Tags: Bing, borders, CostaRica, google, GoogleMaps, invasion, military, mistake, nicaragua, politics, top, web, weird