The South China Sea is a hotly contested area with several countries, most notabley China, building structures on the reefs of the Spratleys. We had a look at the progress last year and had a look at the latest imagery of Fiery Cross Reef in June this year.
As we have discussed before, censoring satellite imagery is more difficult than censoring other data. A number of countries censor aerial data, mapping data and 3D imagery and because those are often gathered within the countries in question, Google must comply with local laws. But satellite imagery is more difficult to censor. I has been done. It is illegal in the US to publish high resolution imagery of Israel, and Google is a US company so Israel appears in relatively low resolution in Google Maps and Google Earth. Also, imagery updates were stopped for Iraq, Afghanistan, the Ukraine and Syria although we do not know exactly how that was accomplished.
Back to this particular case, if the story is correct and if that was the only facility that Taiwan asked Google to censor, then it would appear they made a serious error. The result has been that many news outlets have published the imagery and it is now not only practically impossible to get rid of all those images, but it has become an object of attention. In addition, Google will be very unlikely to agree to censor it unless legal pressure can be brought to bear. If they were to censor it, a lot of people will notice, and it will become another news story, and then a lot of other countries will want their censorship requests to be honoured as well.
Another question would be who Taiwan wishes to hide the imagery from. Even if Google removed the image, it could still be purchased from the supplier Digital Globe, or imagery of the location could be ordered from various other commercial suppliers. A number of states also have their own spy satellites and the countries most interested in the region could probably capture aerial imagery of it if they wished.
The image that Taiwan wants censored is dated July 8th, 2016 and can only be seen in the default layer as it has not yet (as of this writing) been put in historical imagery.
The military structure in question can be seen below:
We have also created an animation showing that the airport was built since 2006 and the harbour is also being expanded.