Google has told HKFP that an algorithm error led to some protest graffiti in Hong Kong being blurred out its updated Street View Map.
The graffiti, which read “[Chinese leader] Xi Jinping must die for the sake of the world,” was spray-painted onto plant pots separating sections of Nathan Road in Yau Ma Tei – a regular flashpoint during last year’s pro-democracy protests.
The slogan is revealed if viewed from a distance further down the Kowloon thoroughfare.
“Our automatic blurring technology aims to blur faces and license plates so they can’t be identified, but it looks like we didn’t get it right in this instance,” a representative for Google wrote in an email response to HKFP.
Further south on Nathan Road, an instance of graffiti reading “liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times” was also blurred out. The government says the popular slogan is illegal under the newly-implemented national security law.
The phrases remained blurred out on Monday, but other instances of the same wording can be spotted elsewhere on Googlemaps without blurring.
Peak of protests captured
The search engine giant updated its Street View of Hong Kong to include pictures taken last October when the city was gripped by months of demonstrations, initially over an ill-fated bill that would have allowed fugitive transfers to mainland China.
The movement evolved into a wider display of dissent over lack of democratic reform and police behaviour, prompting Beijing to impose sweeping national security legislation.
Other sections of the updated Street View depicted Exit B1 of Prince Edward MTR station boarded-up and surrounded by white flowers to commemorate civilians involved in a controversial police clearance operation last August.
Some workers can be spotted removing the protest posters and stickers from a different angle.
On the corner of Argyle Street and Sai Yeung Choi Street, the glass of Exit D2 to Mong Kok MTR station appears smashed and the walls covered in anti-police graffiti.
Exit A1 of Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station can also be seen boarded-up with shattered glass barriers.
Meanwhile, a footbridge above Percival Street in Causeway Bay is captured covered with Post-It – forming a pro-democracy “Lennon Wall” message board.
The pedestrian barriers along Harcourt Road can also be seen draped in orange tape after protesters removed them to create makeshift barricades outside the legislature.
Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.