The hashtag #PalestineIsHere has ignited a firestorm on social media with a petition on change.org to have the Palestinian territories reinstated on Google Maps garnering more than 240,000 supporters. Claims the US internet giant removed Palestine from its maps of the Middle East appears to have originated from The Forum of Palestinian Journalists.

"The Forum of Palestinian Journalists condemns the crime carried out by Google in deleting the name of Palestine, and calls for Google to rescind its decision and apologise to the Palestinian people," the Gaza-based group said in a statement on 3 August.

The Forum said in its statement that by deleting Palestine on 25 July Google had attempted to tamper with the memory of Palestinians and Arabs as well as the world.

However, despite the outrage and the change.org petition, which was started five months ago, well before the journalists issued their statement, the Washington Post reports the maps remain unchanged and Palestine was never officially marked in the first place.

Google has employed tactics in Israel and Palestine which it has used consistently in its maps thoughout the world to deal with sensitive and disputed territories. At present the map does not show Palestine but shows the territories delineated by a dotted line. It stretches from Jerusalem in the west to the Jordanian border and then from Hebron to Jenin north to south.

The search engine has similarly dealt with tricky cartographical challenges in Kashmir and Crimea but none of these other issues – perhaps unsurprisingly – have provoked such outrage. Twitter users have called Google's depiction of Palestine a "despicable act of erasure" and an explicit backing of Israel in the Middle East.

The change.org petition itself accuses Google of "abetting the Israeli government in this ethnic cleansing program".

"The fact that Israel - an artificial state established on Palestinian territory - is clearly designated on Google Maps, while Palestine itself has been 'airbrushed' out, is outrageous and deeply offensive to Palestinians.

"It is the online parallel of Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian villages and changing Palestinian place names in an effort to erase Palestine from the map," the website reads.

Representatives for Google were not immediately able to comment on this article at the time of publication.