Netflix Pulls NSA-Themed Show in Vietnam Over Offensive Maps

Netflix Pulls NSA-Themed Show in Vietnam Over Offensive Maps
Scene from the Netflix show Pine Gap, showing one of the maps that the government of Vietnam took issue with. (Screenshot: Netflix)

Netflix has pulled a spy drama called Pine Gap from the video streaming platform in Vietnam after the government complained about maps that appear in at least two episodes. The maps are a “misrepresentation of Vietnam’s sovereignty,” according to officials in Hanoi.

The maps in Pine Gap include the so-called nine-dash line, which appears on maps promoted by the Chinese government. The maps show China’s claim to water and islands in the South China Sea, something Vietnam doesn’t recognise.

It’s at least the third time Vietnam’s government has complained to Netflix about maps showing the nine-dash line, which appears in an unaltered screenshot from the program above in red, and annotated in yellow below.

“Netflix’s violations angered and hurt the feelings of the entire people of Vietnam,” Vietnam’s Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information said on Thursday, according to a report from Reuters.

Scene from the third episode of the TV show Pine Gap showing the nine-dash line. (Screenshot: Netflix/Gizmodo) Scene from the third episode of the TV show Pine Gap showing the nine-dash line. (Screenshot: Netflix/Gizmodo)

Pine Gap is a fictional portrayal of the very real U.S. spy facility located in the middle of Australia. The real Pine Gap was created with an agreement between the U.S. and Australian governments in 1966 and has been used since the first Cold War to collect signals intelligence for the Five Eyes spy alliance. It’s more or less the CIA and NSA’s hub for hoovering up information from all of Asia.

The two episodes of Pine Gap in question, both the second and third in the series, briefly show maps that include the nine-dash line. Several countries in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam and the Philippines, don’t recognise China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. China regularly spars with countries over even the smallest incursions into what the Chinese Communist Party sees as its territory.

As Reuters notes, authorities in Vietnam banned the DreamWorks animated movie Abominable in 2019 over maps showing the nine-dash line. Vietnam has also taken issue with nine-dash line maps in a Chinese show called Put Your Head on My Shoulder, which has been pulled from Netflix, as well as the U.S. series “Madam Secretary,” which is still available in the country.

The nine-dash line that appears in Put Your Head on My Shoulder, flashes on screen for roughly one second and is hard to make out, as you can see in the screenshot Gizmodo captured below from the ninth episode of the series.

Scene from the Chinese TV show Put Your Head on My Shoulder featuring a quick shot of the nine-dash line. (Screenshot: Netflix) Scene from the Chinese TV show Put Your Head on My Shoulder featuring a quick shot of the nine-dash line. (Screenshot: Netflix)

“Following a written legal demand from the Vietnamese regulator, we have removed the licensed series, Pine Gap, from Netflix in Vietnam, to comply with local law. It remains available on our service in the rest of the world,” a Netflix spokesperson told Gimzodo early Friday via email.