Yahoo uses iPhone weather application to make a political statement.

A few weeks ago, many iPhone users, including HonestReporting’s Managing Editor, noticed that something had changed on their pre-installed weather application. The data for Jerusalem, as supplied by Yahoo, simply stopped updating. But this was no bug in the system. A new search for Jerusalem now gives users a choice between West Jerusalem in Israel and East Jerusalem located in the West Bank.

We asked internet expert Dr. Andre Oboler to investigate and his technical analysis can be found here. He determined that Yahoo takes its data from the Weather Channel’s own fixed location weather stations. Even for Palestinian cities in the West Bank, the nearest weather station is located in Jerusalem. Yahoo, however, has independently created the new East Jerusalem location. (See the Mere Rhetoric blog for more on how Yahoo has politicized its weather locations.)

According to Oboler:

Yahoo has clearly decided to artificially divide Jerusalem. It’s contorting its systems in all sorts of strange ways to do it. The question we must ask is what right does Yahoo have to use the data from an Israeli weather station in order to divide Jerusalem? This is deliberate dishonesty. According to its own data, the West  Bank does not contain a place called Jerusalem. The weather station is in Israel. This is nothing more than a manipulation of data to advance political propaganda.

This is a deliberate attempt by a large multinational internet corporation to play politics in the Middle East. Yahoo should not be surprised if its political activism comes at a cost. Not just from supporters of Israel but from consumers generally. We as consumers never gave internet companies the right to formulate foreign policy or (as Facebook recently found) privacy policies. We elect governments to do these things. Yahoo, a corporate entity, should learn its place and stick to it.

While this issue may seem unimportant compared to recent events in Israel, this is just one example of the creeping delegitimization of Israel’s rights in its own capital city. Yahoo should not be allowed to unilaterally divide Jerusalem.

Update – June 16, 2010
 
SUCCESS! – Yahoo Reunites Jerusalem

Our campaign succeeds in restoring Jerusalem as one location in Israel on the iPhone Weather application.

Many of you responded after we revealed how the data for Jerusalem, as supplied by Yahoo on the iPhone’s pre-installed Weather application, simply stopped updating. Yahoo had unilaterally divided the city and gave users a choice between “West Jerusalem, Israel” and “East Jerusalem, West Bank”.

Following a flood of complaints to Yahoo, it appears that the internet giant has listened. A new search for East Jerusalem now returns no results while a search for Jerusalem (or West Jerusalem) sees Israel’s capital reunited into one city located in Israel.

[Note: The East and West Jerusalem locations will not disappear automatically from the iPhone and will, as far as we can tell, continue updating the weather. Once they are deleted, however, they are gone for good leaving Jerusalem as the only option for that location.]

 
Yahoo is one of the Internet’s largest companies. As the default weather application on one of the most popular smart phones, Yahoo’s influence on the public cannot be understated.
 
Yahoo has listened and taken the appropriate action. We are extremely pleased that it has recognized that the weather should not be politicized.
 
Thank you to all of those who took action to achieve this result.
 
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