An artist painted a giant 404 error message in Italy to protest Google


The Sun Magazine
Friday MAY 22nd, 2020

In the small city of GAETA, Italy, a giant 125m (471 ft) wide mural by French street-artist MTO has been silently censored by Google CORP. Is this the first case of artistic censorship on our good old Google Earth?

This is the imagined headline and lede written by French artist MTO in the description to his latest work, “We Live On Google Earth,” in which he criticizes how much control Google has gained over the world’s information and art.

Last year, Google announced it would begin capturing images of street art from around the world. On the surface, it seems like a good idea: most street art is by definition ephemeral, and the project in theory gives anyone anywhere a chance to see it.

But sometimes street art goes away without an artist’s consent, as has recently been the case in places ranging from Lima, where the mayor just ordered to eliminate all wall art; to Detroit, where last fall fines began being issued to property owners who refused to remove graffiti from their property, even when they had approved the work themselves.

And Google itself has in some countries bowed to pressure from governments to censor results  — although to its credit it has highlighted when such instances occur.

Still, given all this, allowing one entity to accumulate this much control over acts of expression is, for MTO, unwise. The European Union seems to think so as well, as it may soon charge Google with antitrust violations.

Here’s what his imagined future actually looks like on the ground. (Thanks to MTO and Flavia Fiengo for granting us permission.)

MTO also included other news happening in 2020:

And here’s the error message.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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