ForumTouchy Subjects ► Current controversy about Apple maps and disputed territory

In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. People complained, but no one did anything about it. So Crimea is now part of Russia for all intents and purposes.

Since then, Apple tried to sit on the fence and showed Crimea as neither Ukraine nor Russia but rather some unincorporated non-country wilderness. Russia complained, so Apple now shows it as part of Russia if you view the map from Russia. Now Ukraine is complaining.

I think it's part of Russia now so it should be shown as such. How it became part of Russia is really beside the point, most borders exist because of a land-grab at some point or another. If Ukraine ever takes it back then show that too. But mapping companies should tell it like it is, not how it should be.

Apple might as well make Northern Ireland disappear when viewed from the Republic, but that's older so it's less trendy. There's any number of disputed territories out there, you can't please everyone.

Not just about Crimea, any example will do. Perhaps a non-issue in the context of this forum, but it got an opinion out of me.
Most governments do not recognize Crimea as part of Russia (113 UN members and 2 non-UN members) including the most powerful countries and economies in the world (China, US, Germany to name a few).

Ukraine and Russia are still at war. So your characterization that "no one did anything about it" is incorrect.

Most disputed territories are not actively the subject of an ongoing war between nations.

Apple is an American company that does significant business in China and Western Europe. I would think it in Apple's interest to toe the line set by those governments in this case, meaning showing Crimea as part of Ukraine.
The idea that it wouldn't be in Apple's interest to acknowledge de facto borders annoys me. Changing borders based on complaints from those involved in the dispute seems like a lose/lose situation. They messed up when they decided to try and make some grey area.
From BBC:
The BBC does not show Crimea as part of Russia on its maps, but shows a dotted line to mark disputed territory.

On a side note, I think it's funny the BBC decided to say this to avoid controversy
Google maps just uses different maps depending on your server location. You can't draw a map without pissing someone off. Taiwan anyone? Lol.
Millpond said:
I think it's part of Russia now so it should be shown as such.

This is just unfortunate phrasing, though I think it betrays something about how you seem to be approaching the topic.

Millpond said:
mapping companies should tell it like it is, not how it should be.

E7 said:
de facto borders

Unlike geographical features, settlements, cities, or buildings, Borders are arbitrary and have little basis in reality. The laws I can be persecuted for are nominally based on which country I'm in - but unless the group that arrests me has a treaty with the country I *think* I'm in, then me showing them a map won't help much in my trial.

I honestly struggle to think of any objective metric by which a sensible modern political map could be drawn. For example: You could assign regions based on the strongest military presence in the area, and add Japan to the US territories in maps of 1946. Or you could assign regions based on who the municipal governments view as legitimate, in which case a Spanish-Catalonian border forms. Or maybe you draw the borders based on the self-reported nationality of the residents, making the world look like a pile of colorful spaghetti.

Should maps of the world in 2017 represent ISIL? Should modern maps note the principality of Sealand? I don't know. But I know that borders don't exist, and if you want to make sense of the world you have to make some compromises and concessions.

And disputed territories aren't the worst way to do that.
That was a really good breakdown of the issue. I think you're right that there's no objectively best way to draw borders.
amras0000 said:
But I know that borders don't exist,
I don't think it's right to say borders don't exist. Yes they're political constructs, but political constructs exist. And political constructs ("countries") are generally what we want to see when we look at a world map. Also land borders often do have a physical manifestation, eg walls, checkpoints, guard facilities.

I think disputed territory should be marked as such. If a map is colour-coding Red for Russia and Yellow for Ukraine, then it can use red-and-yellow stripes for Crimea and say something like "Dis: RU/UA".

I don't think maps should've showed things like ISIS territory in an active conflict, because it was in such a state of flux, it wouldn't be worth it. But if ISIS had controlled the exact same territory for fifty years, then why not. I'm talking about printed maps there. For online digital maps that are easily updated, I think it'd've been totally useful to show ISIS territory.

With regards to unrecognised countries, I think it mostly works on a majority vote, ie who else recognises it. And control probably also comes into it, for example Spain still has total control over Catalonia, whereas I don't think Somalia actually controls Somaliland.

Sealand is a bit different because it's in international waters and not otherwise part of any other country. I think even the UK had to acknowledge that it wasn't in their waters, so I don't think they claim it, and no other country does. But no one recognises it either.

Edit: I just discovered that while the platform was originally constructed outside UK waters, the UK extended its waters in 1987, and Sealand is now in UK waters. Also Germany /kind of/ recognised Sealand because it sent a diplomat there the negotiate the release of a hostage.
Even among disputed territories things are hardly equal. While Kosovo, Palestine and Somaliland have sort of quasi recognition, there's also places like "Chinese Taipei" that the world has to pretend not to acknowledge but definitely does. Then you have Crimea/Nagorno-Karabakh which no one wants to touch, and then weirder still, maps do tend to acknowledge that Western Sahara is disputed by leaving it grey on statistics.

Borders are useful, but conflict borders is basically a hodgepodge of who you can afford to piss off.
There is a really cool BBC documentary called "How to Start Your Own Country", where the presenter annexes an island in the Thames for a few hours until the police tell him to clear off:

Showing/hiding the emoji of disputed countries in specific regions is also interesting.
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