In a project with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Google Incorporated is using its popular online mapping service Google Earth to call attention to atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan by making high resolution satellite images of the region available. Google says it will periodically update the images. When users scan over the Darfur region, where the United Nations estimates that more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in four years of carnage, Google hopes to attract their gaze with icons in the free Google Earth software download. The icons represent destroyed villages with flames and refugee camps with tents. When users zoom in to a level of magnification that keeps most of Darfur on a computer screen, the icons seem to indicate that much of the region is on fire. Clicking on flame icons will open windows with the village"s name and statistics on the extent of destruction.
The online maps of the region also include an icon that links to a presentation by the Holocaust museum on the crisis in the region with photos, video, historical background and testimony on atrocities. Sara Bloomfield, the museum"s director, said museum staff members had approached Google about the project as they sought ways to highlight what they believe is genocide to many people who remain unaware. In Google Earth, which the company says has been downloaded by 200 million people worldwide, they found an ideal medium. Sudanese officials, including President Omar al-Bashir, have denied that widespread atrocities have occurred in Darfur. The Hague-based International Criminal Court has accused officials and militias of orchestrating massacres, mass rapes and the forcible transfer of thousands of civilians from their homes. The United States characterizes the massacres as genocide; other countries and international organizations do not.