Google Maps has changed the name of a reef in the South China Sea that's been the subject of contention between the Chinese government and the Philippines. The shoal, claimed as part of the Zhongsha Island chain by Beijing, is now classified as Scarborough Shoal, the name recognized throughout the world.
The change provoked a wave of backlash on Weibo, a Chinese search engine, with thousands of users encouraging their countrymen to boycott Google products and delete any Google-affiliated apps from their devices.
The change came after a petition on Change.org called on Google to stop giving legitimacy to China's claim that it owns the reef in question. The triangle-shaped chain of reefs and rocks stretches across 29 miles and is known for its fertile fishing grounds. The area's sovereignty has been disputed for decades, though, with China, the Philippines and the People's Republic of Taiwan each staking their claim.
The region is known as Huangyan Island by China and the Panatag Shoal by the Phillipines. The dispute last made headlines in the U.S. in 2012, when there was a tense standoff between Chinese and Filipino boats refused to cede the area, staying there for weeks.
“We made the fix in line with our long-standing global policy on depicting disputed regions in a way that does not endorse or affirm the position taken by any side,” a Google spokesperson told CNN Wednesday.
The Philippines has also raised the issue at the United Nations, submitting a 300-year old map to the Tribunal on the Law of the Sea last month that purportedly proves the Scarborough Shoal was part of the Philippine territory at the time. China has consistently refused to engage the issue on the international level, instead stating that the Philippines should deal directly with Beijing on the issue.