The title bestowed on Google as the most popular and powerful search engine in the world is well known, but the power to start a war? That appears to be the case in Central America, where an error on the site’s Maps feature has caused an international conflict. A Nicaraguan military commander reportedly used Google Maps to execute a move of his troops into an area near along the border of his country and Costa Rica. The troops are accused of taking down a Costa Rican flag and defiantly raising the Nicaraguan flag on Costa Rican turf, inflaming a decades old border dispute. The troops also began dredging in the San Juan River and dumping the sediment in Costa Rican territory, another ongoing source of tension between the two countries. Costa Rica’s largest newspaper, La Nacion, first reported that the Nicaraguan commander, Eden Pastora, used Google Maps to “justify” the invasion, even though the official maps used by both countries indicate the territory belongs, in fact, to Costa Rica. “See the satellite photo on Google,” he told the paper. “Here you see the frontier. In the last 3,000 meters both sides are Nicaraguan.” A Google spokesperson in Central America originally told La Nacion that the company did not know the source of the map’s error. The Costa Rican government first contacted Google to demand the map be fixed. The Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry the sent a letter to Google insisting it leave the map alone. The company, in a blog post, said it was taking steps to correct the error it explained stems from an “error in the compilation of the source data” from the U.S. Department of State. The conflict has gone so far as to rise to the attention of the Organization of American States, whose chief this week urged both countries to withdraw security forces from the border zone.
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