The Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands in the East Vietnam Sea over which Vietnam exercises its sovereignty have been wrongly identified as parts of China on a map provided by the ad manager tool of Facebook, which said it was an honest mistake.
Facebook allows Page owners to promote their posts to a highly targeted audience through its Boost Post feature.
The ad manager tool enables the Page owners to choose the age groups and geographical locations of the audience for their paid content.
However, some users in Vietnam have discovered that the map in the Locations feature would highlight all of Vietnam’s territory but the two groups of islands when ‘Vietnam’ is selected as the target location.
What is more confusing is that when the location is switched to ‘China’, the archipelagoes become highlighted, suggesting they belong to Vietnam’s northern neighbor.
Vietnam asserts continuous and indisputable sovereignty over both groups of islands, while China has been condemned for its use of force to occupy Hoang Sa in 1974 and several shoals in Truong Sa in 1988.
|A digital map on Facebook wrongly identifies the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagoes as Chinese territories in this screen grab.|
An official from Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications said on Sunday it had sent a request for an explanation and action from Facebook regarding the issue, upon being notified of the problem by local users.
The social media site responded by saying that it had been made aware of the issue and added the problem had been caused by the use of a “wrong” map for geographical reference.
It was a pure technical mistake and not politically motivated, Facebook underlined, adding it was looking into the issue and promised a resolution at an earliest time, according to the information ministry official.
A test by Tuoi Tre News on Monday morning yielded the same outcome, with Truong Sa and Hoang Sa Islands only highlighted when China was selected in the Locations list.
Around 53 million Vietnamese people, or over half of the Southeast Asian country’s population, use Facebook, making it the social media site’s seventh-biggest market as of 2017.
In 2016, Google also caused a stir among Vietnamese Internet users by labeling the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagoes as Chinese territories on its online maps.
The tech giant has since apologized and corrected the mistake.