Why I won't contribute to Mapillary anymore

Posted by juminet on 23 June 2020 in English (English).

Note: this is an English version of my article in French here.

I’m a long time contributor of Mapillary and probably one of the top contributors in Wallonia. I have uploaded 59,7 k images to Mapillary, covering +1000 km. I have contributed of course with road imagery taken from my car, but also on the train and on several hundreds km of tracks and paths. While Mapillary has a good coverage in cities, it is usually poor in rural areas and I was happy to contribute on hiking trails, where I thought it has some potential for tourism applications. Beside Mapillary, I’m actively promoting OpenStreetMap as a hobby but also with my company as a GIS professional. With my colleagues or as OSM contributor, I made several trainings on OpenStreetMap to various publics: tourism agencies, urban planners, students, environmental agencies. At almost every OSM training / mapping parties, I also advocated for Mapillary, as an alternative to Google Street View, just as OSM is an alternative to Google maps. Two years ago, my colleague and I were invited as “open-source geo experts” to a meeting at the Walloon road administration to speak about the potential use of OSM and Mapillary for monitoring the 10k’s of signposts in the Walloon region (17,000 km²). So I was a also a advocate of Mapillary just like I’m a strong advocate of OSM, both in my local mapping community and professionally.

Was. Then I saw this news: Facebook acquired Mapillary. I had first mixed feelings. I took some days to think if I should stop contribute to Mapillary or not. I even still uploaded some guidepost images taken this weekend. But finally I took the decision to download all my images and delete my Mapillary account. Why?

I’m not against commercial uses of open-source software and data (this is even fully part of my job!), nor I’m a open-source ayatollah. I’m not rigorously against big corporations. It is a fact that Mapillary needs strong servers and that this costs money. BTW, I claim that the way that core infrastructure of OSM should be managed more professionally and that there are some limits when open-source projects are solely managed by a community. And I even recognize how Facebook is useful for strengthening social links in my rural community, like for organising events or for sharing objects between neighbours. But I won’t contribute to Facebook.

In my country like elsewhere, the most extremist parties are using Facebook to manipulate the opinion. The party that spend the most money last year for the elections in Belgium has alleged links to neo-nazis groups and have alleged neo-nazis members. Several members of this party were sued for sharing and promoting antisemitic and negationist ideas. No need to explain more that these parties are a direct thread to our societies. They don’t just advertise on FB: they use FB users data to make profiling and deliberately manipulate the opinion of large groups of people. This party spent at least 450k € from the beginning of 2020 (see on Facebook advertising. In my country, it is by far the largest party in terms of money spent on FB. I would not be surprised that this neo-nazi party is actually the first customer of FB in my country. And a company has always to listen to their customers. I don’t really blame FB for doing this. I’m pretty sure that most of FB employees are really annoyed that they favour neo-nazis political parties but how could they ignore a such big source of money? FB is a company: it has inherently no ethics. They need to make the server run, to pay their employees and to fund their stakeholders. IMHO, we must not only educate people to a better use of social networks but a strong public control (regulation, nationalization, whatever the way, …) on foreign companies such as FB is essential for our sovereignty and democracy.

Another reason for me, the core business of Mapillary is not to allow craft mappers to map things but is almost entirely geared toward monitoring road networks for the car industry.

Frankly, I’m not happy to give up with my commitment to Mapillary. This company have developed wonderful open-source tools to foster the participation to OSM. I just like to see a alternative to Mapillary re-born again, for the Common Good.

Comment from Magick93 on 24 June 2020 at 02:56

Ever heard of OpenStreetCam? I believe it’s a viable alternative to Mapillary

Comment from escada on 24 June 2020 at 11:38

@Magick93, I’ve heard of OpenStreetCam. It might have been a viable alternative while it was maintained (more or less) by Telenav. I’m not sure whether I trust the current owners (Grab). And from what I read here and there, no updates nor fixes have been made in a long time.

Comment from voschix on 5 July 2020 at 16:26

FB is also a Gold Member of the OpenStreetMap Foundation.

Comment from maxolasersquad on 14 July 2020 at 14:17

Most companies get income from neo nazis and people from many ideologies. Any store that a Nazi shops at is making money off of Nazis. While I believe that Facebook should try to find ways that their platform is used to promote hate and to shut that down (and they clearly are not doing anything like the job they should be doing here), I don’t think it’s accurate to see them as actively supporting Nazi ideology.

Another point is that it doesn’t look like Facebook is making any money off of Mapillary, and it is most likely a net loss in the short and long term.

I actually stopped using Mapillary because my work wasn’t being released under a truly free license. Now that Mapillary imagery is licensed freely I have begun contributing to their product again.

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