May 17, 2012 at 1:05 PM ET
Typically companies anger the public by taking a controversial action, but in Google's case, not doing something is causing backlash. The search engine giant's decision to not label a body of water between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula on Google Maps has many Iranians outraged.
Let's start with a brief history lesson.
The body of water located off the southern coast of Iran (aka Persia) is commonly known as the Persian Gulf, but many Arab nations, some of which also border it, refer to it as the Arabian Gulf. As people often do, those on either side of that naming dispute hold strong opinions and occasionally lash out at those who disagree with them.
With that in mind, it is not particularly surprising that there are multiple reports of Iranian authorities expressing their disapproval and even threatening legal action against Google.
The Associated Press reports that Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told the Mehr news agency that Google will face "serious damages" if it does not add a label to the body of water in question.
According to CNN, Iranian officials also "accused Google of having removed the words 'Persian Gulf'" from Google Maps via state-run news agency IRNA. Several other outlets repeated similar statements, but a Google spokesperson clarified to the Guardian that "reports were exaggerated and that it had not removed the term Persian Gulf, saying that 'the body of water' had not been labelled from the beginning, like many other places."
BBC's Sebastian Usher writes that a Google representative additionally told him that "the company also did not want to take any political stance in response to the angry Iranian reaction."
We have reached out to Google ourselves, but have not received a comment. It is doubtful that the search engine giant will make a move on this issue. After all, it isn't the first time something like this has come up, as the NY Post points out:
Iran routinely lashes out at what it sees as the incorrect naming of the waters.
In 2010, it warned that airlines using the term "Arabian Gulf" on in-flight monitors would be barred from Iranian airspace
As for msnbc.com and many other news outlets, we will continue to refer to it in our coverage as the Persian Gulf, citing the AP Stylebook, which says: "Use this long-established name for the body of water off the southern coast of Iran."
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