• 29 March 2008
  • Posted By John Einarsen
  • Uncategorized

“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 The term “Persian Gulf” has been used for more than two millennium, while the term “Arabian Gulf” is actually an outdated term for what is now the Red Sea.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.

Posted By John Einarsen

    2 Responses to ““Google Bombing” a Unique Strategy to Voice Opinion”

  1. Michael Mahyar Hojjatie says:

    My father recently enlightened me to this heinous act Google dared commit. Below is the URL for a petition demanding they renege it. I know some people swear that online petitions “don’t work”, but hey, if you care spare only a few seconds of your time, it feels good to know you can at least make your point across about something you are very passionate about along with many other people. There are over 70,000 signatures so far! Please also tell anyone that you think would share our opinion.


  2. Elika says:

    Thank you NIAC for continuing your support for this cause. We should not let politics pillage the realm of geographical and historical knowledge. Iranians take great pride in the name “Persian Gulf”, that is undoubtedly true, but pride is insufficient to bolster an argument.
    Nonetheless, Google is in the wrong. The term “Arabian Gulf” is historically inaccurate, reflects a potentially dangerous pan-Arab movement, and ignores current international norms. Therefore, on its face, in both past and present terms, the term “Arabian Gulf” is erroneous. I am surprised that Google would be so irresponsible, but thank you again to NIAC for taking up this cause. What may seem to be a small cause is quickly magnified in the eyes of many.

Leave a ReplyLeave a Reply to Elika

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Sign the Petition


7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



Share this with your friends: