Misleading ‘map of lies’ billboard returns to Auckland CBD

June 26, 2016 by Keren Cook
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A misleading billboard known as the “map of lies” supported by the Palestinian Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) is back on display again after being previously removed by Advantage Media for the misleading nature of the maps.

The offending billboard

The offending billboard

In December 2015, Shalom.Kiwi reported that the billboard was removed after one day from it’s Ellerslie site, and confirmed that the The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the removal of the sign was “the best outcome we could hope for.” More recently, the ASA has now ruled that the maps express ‘robust opinion’ and ‘allowable’.

“When it comes to strong political perspectives, there are no absolute truth or lies, just political standpoints.” – NZ Advertising Standards Authority decision 11/085

The billboard has reappeared at 2 Pitt Street, – notably, within walking distance of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation, located in Auckland Central.

Go Media Ltd is an Auckland based company which offers billboard sites with high visibility and traffic count. They are currently refusing to remove the misleading billboard.

The ASA does acknowledge there is a difference between opinion and fact: Rule 11 of the ASA Code of Ethics requires that “opinion should be clearly distinguishable from factual information”. Rule 2 of the ASA Code also makes it clear that advertisements should not mislead:

“Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge” – ASA Code of Ethics.

The re-appearance of the billboard certainly challenges the Code of Ethics as the billboard incorrectly states that land in 1947 was under Arab-Palestinian control. This is factually, and historically incorrect: At that time, the land was under British control as part of the Mandate of Palestine.

There are additional misleading impressions contained within the maps, however the ASA decision suggests that anyone can create an advertisement that is factually incorrect as long as they claim it is a “political perspective” because perspectives are not “absolute truths”.

The ASA is somewhat out of date with other industry self-regulatory bodies around the world. Last year, MSNBC apologized for using the maps, saying they were “not factually correct”. In Canada, the Toronto Transit Commission rejected advertisements using the maps because they were found to be “inaccurate or misleading”. Global publishing company McGraw Hill has also stopped publication and will destroy books that contain the misleading maps.

“As soon as we learned about the concerns with (the maps), we placed sales of the book on hold and immediately initiated an academic review. The review determined that the map did not meet our academic standards,” McGraw Hill confirmed.

The return of the misleading billboard is one of many distortions, antisemitic attacks and backlashes present in New Zealand, and often present on university campuses.

David Zwartz, of the New Zealand Jewish Council said: “The New Zealand Jewish community regularly suffers increased backlash when there is public misrepresentation of the situation in Israel.”

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