The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

On Google Maps a Senate office building was renamed for John McCain

The body of Sen. John McCain will lie in state in Washington this week. (Matt Rourke/AP)

A Senate of­fice build­ing was tem­po­rar­i­ly re­named for the late sen­a­tor John McCain on Goo­gle Maps.

When Web users typed the words “Russell Senate Office Building” into Goo­gle search, a map dis­play brought up a lo­ca­tion de­sig­nat­ed as the “McCain Senate Office Building.”

Hours af­ter McCain’s death on Sat­ur­day at age 81, Senate Mi­nor­i­ty Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) pro­posed re­nam­ing the congressional build­ing af­ter the Ari­zona sen­a­tor to hon­or his leg­acy as a Vietnam War POW and his more than three de­cades of serv­ice in Congress. But some Senate Re­pub­lic­ans are re­sist­ing the i­de­a of stripping the name of Sen. Rich­ard Russell Jr., for whom the build­ing is currently named. Russell was a Democratic sen­a­tor for 38 years and led Southern op­po­si­tion to ci­vil rights as a seg­re­ga­tion­ist. His record in­spired pre­vi­ous ef­forts to re­name the Russell build­ing, but those in­itia­tives failed.

Late Wednes­day morn­ing, Goo­gle Maps showed that the lo­ca­tion list­ing had reverted to its proper name.

It’s not clear how or why the en­try for the Russell build­ing was re­named on the Goo­gle list­ing. The search gi­ant told The Washington Post on Wednes­day: “We em­pow­er people to con­tri­bute their local knowl­edge to the map, but we rec­og­nize that there may be oc­ca­sion­al in­ac­cu­ra­cies or prema­ture chan­ges sug­gest­ed by users. When this hap­pens, we work to ad­dress as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. We have im­ple­ment­ed a fix for this issue that is roll­ing out now.”

Web users can suggest edits to locations displayed on Google Maps, according to the Google Maps Help Web page: “You can tell us about incorrect business details, wrong road names, or other data errors on the map.” These suggested edits are then reviewed by Google or Google Maps users before they show up on the map, the website said. But as Google indicated, users can intentionally suggest false corrections.

The map issue came a day af­ter President Trump ac­cused Goo­gle of rig­ging search re­sults for “Trump News” in a way that min­i­mized the vis­i­bil­i­ty of con­ser­va­tive media out­lets and em­pha­sized more criti­cal news stor­ies.

In re­spond­ing, Goo­gle said that its goal is to make sure that users search­ing for in­for­ma­tion get the most rel­evant an­swers in a mat­ter of sec­onds. “Search is not used to set a po­lit­i­cal a­gen­da, and we don’t bias our re­sults to­ward any po­lit­i­cal i­de­ol­o­gy,” the com­pany said.

Earli­er this week Trump ig­nit­ed another po­lit­i­cal fire­storm when he chose to of­fer con­do­lences to McCain’s fam­i­ly on Twitter but did not issue a for­mal White House state­ment. He or­dered flags on federal of­fice build­ings to fly at half-staff. But less than 48 hours af­ter McCain’s fam­i­ly an­nounced the sen­a­tor’s death from brain can­cer, the flag atop the White House was raised to full-staff. De­trac­tors, in­clud­ing veterans groups and Democrats and Re­pub­lic­ans, saw the flag-rais­ing as a sign of dis­re­spect to­ward McCain.

Later on Mon­day, the White House flag was low­ered a­gain, to re­main so until McCain’s in­ter­ment. Trump is­sued a state­ment prais­ing the sen­a­tor — but only af­ter facing rounds of in­tense crit­i­cism.

Trump and McCain had a tense re­la­tion­ship be­fore the sen­a­tor’s death. As McCain suf­fered through brain can­cer, the president pub­lic­ly snubbed him, de­clin­ing to re­fer to McCain dur­ing a re­cent cer­e­mo­ny when he signed a ma­jor defense bill that was named for the sen­a­tor. Trump has also deni­grat­ed McCain’s mil­i­tar­y serv­ice, say­ing dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that McCain — who spent years as a POW af­ter his plane was shot down in 1967 dur­ing the Vietnam War — was “not a war hero.”

McCain had pub­lic­ly crit­i­cized Trump through­out his presi­den­cy, es­pe­cial­ly on for­eign pol­icy, de­noun­cing Trump’s com­ments dur­ing a sum­mit with Russian President Vlad­i­mir Putin in Helsinki in July.

While former pres­i­dents Ba­rack Obama and George W. Bush are sched­uled to de­liv­er eulo­gies this week­end at McCain’s funeral, Trump was not in­vit­ed.