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 www.freemap.sk.
The disagreement in Cyprus centered on the non-localised tags, particularly "name". Since the main rendering at 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. JOSM can show the last editor of any object, and a message sent from that users page on the website. Local community can also be reached on the Community forum or on mailing lists.
If for any reason you do not want to communicate directly with the other editor(s), you can contact the Data working group and they will look at the situation and mediate if necessary.
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. The 'Map what's on the ground' rule appears along with other guidelines on the Good practice page.
According to the "On the Ground Rule" whatever people are using on the ground at that location will win the non-localized tags. So in the case of North Cyprus, this would be the Turkish names. The specific rules are documented at 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.)
If there are two common versions of a place name, as a possible but not recommended way, the "name" tag could contain them both (A/B).
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.
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.
The Data Working Group (DWG) can be asked to act in case of serious disputes.
Map styles with different focus, using different languages are welcomed as a new layer on the OpenStreetMap website. Some products based on OpenStreetMap data are already supporting this. Such customization requires proper tagging in the database.
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"