Google Maps denies unblurring Russian military sites

"Hi there, please note that we haven’t made any blurring changes to our satellite imagery in Russia," Google Maps said to those sharing reports it had unblurred military bases.

A sign is pictured outside a Google office near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, US, May 8, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/PARESH DAVE/FILE PHOTO)
A sign is pictured outside a Google office near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, US, May 8, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/PARESH DAVE/FILE PHOTO)

Google denied multiple reports that Russian military sites have been unblurred on its Google Maps web and app platform, in a series of tweets on Tuesday. 

"Hi there, please note that we haven’t made any blurring changes to our satellite imagery in Russia," Google Maps said to multiple news outlets and journalists who shared reports that Google had unblurred military bases.

Euromaidan Press, Nexta, and open-source intelligence analysts were among those that shared the reports of the unblurring on Monday.

Google blurs out military and other sensitive sites at the request of governments. Much of Israel is blurred in Google Maps due to US and Israeli regulations.

While Google has not unblurred Russian military bases, it has taken other actions to anger Russian authorities. In March, Google announced that it would not help websites, apps and YouTube channels sell ads alongside content that it deems exploits, dismisses or condones the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

 Service members of pro-Russian troops drive an armoured vehicle during Ukraine-Russia conflict near the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 17, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO) Service members of pro-Russian troops drive an armoured vehicle during Ukraine-Russia conflict near the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 17, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

"We can confirm that we're taking additional steps to clarify, and in some instances expand our monetization guidelines as they relate to the war in Ukraine," Google spokesman Michael Aciman said.

In an email to publishers seen by Reuters, Google said ads would not run alongside, for example, "claims that imply victims are responsible for their own tragedy or similar instances of victim-blaming, such as claims that Ukraine is committing genocide or deliberately attacking its own citizens."

Interfax news agency reported in March that Russia's communications regulator had blocked Google's aggregator service Google News, accusing it of allowing access to what Russia calls fake material about the military operation in Ukraine. 

Senior Russian officials say Western media has misreported the conflict in Ukraine, which it calls a "special operation" to demilitarize the country.

Earlier that month, Google said it had stopped selling all online ads in Russia.