Facebook apologizes for map that violates Vietnam’s sovereignty

Facebook has issued an apology to its Vietnamese users for an incident involving a wrongful depiction of the country’s sovereignty on a map used by the company.

In a press release issued Thursday, the social networking giant claimed that the issue with a map used for the Facebook advertising tool was a technical error and a patch to fix it was being deployed globally.

Facebook then apologized for the mistake and claimed that the company had explained itself to the Vietnamese government and fixed the issue as requested.

The mistake was discovered after Vietnamese users using Facebook’s advertising tool found that the tool’s map did not include Paracel (Hoang Sa) and Spratly (Truong Sa) Islands as part of Vietnam.

The map however showed the islands as part of China, and a live version of the map displayed the name “Sansha” over the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea. “Sansha” is the name of a city China unilaterally established in the disputed waters that includes Vietnam’s Paracel and Spratly Islands, as well as the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by the Philippines.

These wrongful depictions of Vietnam’s sovereignty reportedly outraged many people in Vietnam, where Facebook is the most popular network with more than 58 million active accounts.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications then issued a request for Facebook to take immediate actions to correct the map last Sunday, prompting the social networking giant to patch it on Monday.

In a statement on the fix issued Tuesday, Facebook said it had removed the wrongful depictions of the islands and the mention of “Sansha.” As the company claims it remains neutral on territorial disputes, the islands were completely removed from the map instead of being added to Vietnam.

Facebook also stated that all its maps were provided by third-party companies such as OpenStreetMap and HERE Maps.

Vietnam has consistently affirmed that it has full legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

China seized the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam by force in 1974, and has been illegally occupying a number of reefs in the Spratly Islands since 1988.