Crisis in Darfur – The Google Effect

Crisis in Darfur on Google Earth

The new Crisis in Darfur layer, which was pushed out into Google Earth on Monday night (as first reported here), was formally announced on Tuesday in Washington, DC by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Google. Google has featured this layer as a new default layer (turned on when you first bring up Google Earth). The news of the new layer was picked up by major media sources all around the world (see a media summary – with links – of major news stories at OgleEarth). Over the coming days and weeks, the millions of people who have Google Earth installed will start up the application and discover the new layer. Even more attention and learning about this tragedy will occur.

A version of this layer was first released back in February. Since February, an enormous amount of effort from people all over the world – who specialize in GIS and Google Earth content – was put forth to greatly enhance the Crisis in Darfur layer before it was released this week (see the credits at the end of this page). When the layer was released in February, it did not get much media attention. Although its truly a much better layer now than in February, it isn’t the quality of the layer which has captured the attention. It’s the fact Google got behind the layer, made it a layer turned on by default in GE – and joined USHMM in their press announcement. Now, it suddenly it gets major attention. In my opinion, if you have super-power brand name recognition, and an innovative application of information dissemination (Google Earth), then helping elevate attention to a crisis like the one in Darfur is a very good thing. My congratulations go to the team of people and organizations who helped create the Crisis in Darfur layer. But, my hat is off to Google for using their marketing power for good.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Thanks for the great coverage of the Crisis in Darfur launch!
    Just to correct something, the AAAS project from February is not connected to Crisis in Darfur. We advised on their project as they have done for the Museum’s, but ours is not an “enhanced” version- in fact there is no AAAS content in the layers.
    AAAS has been releasing Google Earth versions of their imagery products and analysis (Darfur, along with Zimbabwe, Lebanon and other places) for some time:
    Thanks again for your excellent posts- Michael Graham

  2. Jose Mari Imperial says

    I commend Google Earth for posting Dafur. People should see what has been happening to our planet and make people think on what we should do about it.

  3. Thomas Goodey says

    I don’t think Google should use GE for political propaganda. More exactly, of course GE is a perfectly legitimate tool for implementation of political propaganda _by third parties_, but Google itself should not issue such propaganda overlays. I have now (at last) managed to turn Darfur off; but I note that it doesn’t seem possible to eliminate it entirely, and I resent this.

  4. HERE HERE…. I agree with Thomas. I’ve spent the last 2 days trying to REMOVE DARFUR LEGEND!By the way, how DID you TURN IT OFF? I’ve even gone so far as to remove GE and ALL OF ITS FILES, and yet…. when I downloaded it again,a ‘LIKE NEW’ install…P.S. I STILL HAVE THAT &$# SIDEBAR COVERING the entire left side of my screen! Thus is just NOT COOL!!!!
    PLEASE… Does ANYONE know how to remove IT??

  5. XS, I can help you solve your problem. What you are seeing is the legend which is part of the “Download more information” option when you view the “Crisis in Darfur” layer. When it loaded, it was put into your “Temporary Places” under the Places pane. When you exited Google Earth, it would have prompted you to save unsaved placemarks. If you say “Yes”, it saves the things in your “Temporary Places” into your
    “My Places” folder under the “Places” pane.
    To make it turn off, you have two choices – First find the “Crisis in Darfur” folder under your
    “My Places” – either scan for it yourself, or hit
    “Ctrl-F” and search for “Crisis”, then 1) Turn off the folder; or 2) Delete the folder if you don’t want to keep it around (hit the “Delete
    key, or select the Right Mouse Button to get a menu on the folder and then select “Delete”.

  6. At LAST…
    Thank you so much Frank!
    You ROCK!

  7. President Bush commented today at the U.S. Holocaust Museum on this layer:
    This museum cannot stop the violence. But through your good work, you’re making it impossible for the world to turn a blind eye. Earlier I saw an exhibit that puts faces on the millions of men, women, and children who have been killed or driven into the desert. I also saw an interesting new venture that you’ve arranged with Google Earth. As a result of this partnership, millions of Internet users around the world will be able to zoom in and see satellite images of the burnt-out villages and mosques and schools. No one who sees these pictures can doubt that genocide is the only word for what is happening in Darfur — and that we have a moral obligation to stop it.

  8. Big thanks to Frank for telling how you got that Crisis in Darfur legend go away. It was getting on my nerves too!

  9. If you don’t want to be “bothered” or “irritated” by the pesky plight of those in Darfur, why don’t you just turn off Google Earth. Unfortunately, those living in Darfur don’t have the same privilege. Google is well within their rights, and even within their corporate duty to post “propaganda” like this.

  10. Improving the life of someone in Darfur is as simple as recycling an old cell phone. ECO-CELL, an environmental cell phone recycling and green fund raising company, has issued a challenge to the entire nation. Remember that old, unused cell phone you tucked in the back of the drawer when you upgraded to the newest model? On April 13, 2008, World Darfur Day, ECO-CELL wants you to help recycle to raise dollars for Darfur by sending in that phone to be recycled.
    The company is encouraging everyone to collect as many unused cell phones as possible and send them in to be recycled. Any phones mailed during the month of April will be counted toward the Dollars for Darfur initiative and proceeds will be donated to SaveDarfur Coalition ( and the United Nations World Food Programme (
    Why recycle that old phone? Besides protecting the environment from toxins found in cell phones such as lead and arsenic, by recycling your phone through ECO-CELL, you can also help raise funds for the crisis in Darfur. Giving just a little can provide so much:
    $25 can buy 3 donkey plows for 3 displaced families.
    $50 can buy 3 blankets for a displaced family.
    $100 can buy a treadle pump for a kitchen garden.
    “We wanted to create a way that everyone in the nation could make a positive statement for our brothers and sisters in Darfur. Maybe you want to help but don’t have the means to donate cash,” said Eric Ronay, ECO-CELL President. “This way everyone can make a contribution with a positive effect for both the planet and its inhabitants. One phone or one hundred—every one you send in not only keeps toxins out of a landfill but also generates valuable dollars for a cause that needs our help.”
    For those participants that send in ten or more phones, ECO-CELL will pay the shipping. Simply email to request a free shipping label. Provide your name, address, phone number and the number of phones you plan to send in to ECO-CELL. Participants who want to ship their phones directly to ECO-CELL should send them to: 2701 Lindsay Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206.
    In addition to the Dollars for Darfur initiative, ECO-CELL is locally sponsoring a tent for Tents of Hope, a journey of compassion and peace with the displaced persons and refugees of Darfur, Sudan. Tents of Hope ( is a one-year campaign in which people respond as communities to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan by creating tents that are both unique works of art and focal points for learning about, assisting and establishing relationships with the people of Sudan. The project will culminate in October 2008 with the “Gathering of the Tents” in Washington D.C.
    About ECO-CELL
    ECO-CELL is a cell phone recycling and fundraising company that works with a variety of organizations in the U.S. and Canada, particularly zoos and conservation programs, to collect used cell phones and raise funds for those organizations. ECO-CELL helps keep cell phones out of landfills and provides organizations with a profitable, easy to use, environmentally focused fund-raising program. For more information, visit:

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.