OpenStreetMap disputes or edit wars are situations where consensus is not achieved as to the appropriateness of the tagging or existence of certain features within the OpenStreetMap database. Disputes are experienced as rapid changes to names of features, tags for features or the repeated deletion and recreated of features. Disputes are considered to be a form of Vandalism. Resolution will be attempted within the project using a variety of techniques.
In November 2007, OpenStreetMap had its first edit war in Northern Cyprus, with disagreement over the use of Greek or Turkish names in the Turkish controlled area. This was interesting for many reasons: there are many places around the world in dispute yet few accurate depictions of those disputes. Maps themselves can be a means for dialogue, and the passion it generated shows a certain maturation of the OSM project.
OpenStreetMap is a significant break with past cartography, since the database can accommodate any number of localizations and points of view. And contributors are free to make their own versions based on those points of view, such as http://www.freemap.sk/
The disagreement in Cyprus centered on the non-localised tags, particularly "name". Since the main rendering at http://www.openstreetmap.org/ uses the non-localized version, it does hold some importance.
In the event of a disputed tagging, users are first encouraged to communicate directly with other editors in the area, to try and work out a solution. For instance, if there are two common versions of a place name, the "name" tag could contain them both (A/B). JOSM can show the last editor of any object, and a message sent from that users page on the website.
If for any reason you do not want to communicate directly with the other editor(s), you can contact one of the following people to mediate the dispute.
You may also wish to post to the discussion lists, and indicate that area is under dispute in the appropriate page in the wiki and add the Category:Disputed Names to that page.
The Data Working Group (DWG) can be asked to act in case of serious disputes.
On the Ground Rule
If the dispute can not be resolved through discussion, then the simple default rule is whatever name, designation, etc are used by the people on the ground at that location are used in the non-localized tags. The 'Map what's on the ground' rule appears along with other guidelines on the Good practice page. So in the case of North Cyprus, this would be the Turkish names. The specific rules are documented at WikiProject Cyprus#Disputed place names.
In the case where there are multiple local names, then if the government with effective and sustained control of the area has an official source of names or an official stance on a naming dispute, then that name is default. For instance, Derry-Londonderry.
When there is no clear sustained control of an area, such as Kosovo, special consideration will be needed on a case by case basis. (Kosovo now has independent government, recognised by many other countries, so this is now less relevant.)
OpenStreetMap is not a forum for politics, but a means for understanding. Disputes are not to be carried out in the map, but in discussion. Any editor who does not abide by this, and does not respect agreements in the area, or ultimately the "on the ground" rule, risks losing the right to participate in OpenStreetMap. Contact one of the mediators above if you see this kind of behavior.
In the future, OpenStreetMap should endeavour to incorporate multiple points of view in the main map rendering. For instance, if someone browses to a disputed area, they can be given a choice of alternative renderings. This will require proper tagging in the database, as well as adaptations to the OSM API and slippy map, and new rendering procedures.
OpenStreetMap Foundation position
The OpenStreetMap Foundation has provided a document for governments who want the OSM database to reflect what they think is the correct data: "Information for officials and diplomats of countries and entities with disputed territories"