The Google Map of Vietnam has begun to transform since the launch of Pokémon GO in the country, with citizens noticing an influx of false and misleading addresses added by Pokémon GO users to the Google tool to create fake ‘virtual’ public areas to facilitate their hunt.
In Pokémon GO, the mobile game taking the world by storm, public places such as parks, historical markers, and monuments are likely to automatically be recognized as PokéStops – locations where players can collect eggs and Poké Balls.
In an attempt to cheat the system, a number of Vietnamese players have been creating false public places near their houses to dupe Pokémon GO into marking these areas as PokéStops, saving them the need of traveling in order to visit a real PokéStop.
The workaround is not difficult, thanks to Google Map Maker, a service launched by the Internet giant in June 2008 that allows people to contribute mapping information for geographies where reliable map data is hard to find.
This means anyone can access Google Map Maker and make changes such as marking their house as a museum or flagging an abandoned land plot as a public park.
Changes to Google Map Maker only appear on Google Maps after sufficient reviews by volunteer Google moderators.
But with the flood of alterations being submitted by users since Pokémon GO’s launch, moderators are failing to keep up with the work load.
“People are creating false addresses on Google Maps to attract Pokémon, without realizing this leads to poor-quality maps,” the Google Map Maker Vietnam team wrote on their verified Facebook account on Wednesday.
The lengthy post, penned by the group leader Le Bach, said his team has rejected 2,000 change requests over the last few days, with “a new request for approval sent in every two or three seconds.”
“Google Map Maker Vietnam is almost frozen by such a huge number of requests,” Bach complained.
A fake location marked as "Pokémon University"
The leader said his team “exerted effort to reject those requests” at first, but eventually the influx of requests forced them to give in.
“The serious consequences are that there are now many false or duplicate locations on the map, so users can be easily confused while looking up certain addresses on Google Maps,” he explained.
The Google Map Maker Vietnam team has 15 members, and even when users stop requesting to add new addresses to the map, it will take the team almost a month to moderate the pending requests.
“We have called for help from the Google Map Maker teams in the U.S. and India, but their lack of knowledge about Vietnamese locations may only make the problem worse,” Bach said.
According to Google Map Maker Vietnam, a user even ‘relocated’ a cemetery in Hanoi to his home, before the team detected and corrected the information.
The team therefore called on Pokémon players in Vietnam to stop abusing the map by “creating new locations en masse or relocating important public sites such as schools or pagodas."
Pokémon GO was launched by San Francisco-based developer Niantic in Australia and New Zealand in early July, and reached Vietnam and 14 other Asian and Oceanic countries on Saturday last week.