Google Maps relies on the contributions of over 300 million users per year to provide accurate and up-to-date information on over 250 million places worldwide. With over 20 million reviews, photos, and other contributions added each day, it is essential to ensure that the information is reliable and that unhelpful content is removed. Google Maps has implemented three main strategies to prevent policy-violating content from being submitted.
First, the system constantly monitors for unusual patterns in contributed content and responds quickly to real-time abuse. If suspicious activity is detected, protections may be implemented to prevent further abuse, such as taking down policy-violating content or temporarily disabling new contributions. For example, when a local bar in Missouri experienced a sudden spike in 1-star reviews, the rating function for that place was temporarily disabled to prevent further abuse, and policy-violating reviews were removed.
Second, Google Maps proactively protects places during times when an uptick in off-topic and unhelpful content is anticipated, such as during election time in the U.S. In 2020, the ability to suggest edits to phone numbers, addresses, and other factual information for places like polling stations was limited to prevent the spread of election-related misinformation.
Finally, longer-term protections are instated for places where user contributions have been consistently unhelpful, harmful, or off-topic. This includes places that people go to without choice or places only accessible to certain individuals, such as police stations and prisons. A set of frameworks helps evaluate the helpfulness of user input for these types of places, and restrictions ranging from limiting contributions to blocking specific types of content to blocking contributed content altogether may be applied. Even in cases where restrictions are imposed, users can still access helpful information about these places, such as their address, website, and phone number.
These strategies and techniques are designed to prevent bad content from being contributed to Google Maps and to ensure that the information provided is helpful and reliable. Google Maps will continue to evolve its framework and invest in proactive ways to maintain the accuracy and trustworthiness of the information on the platform.