China’s stringent Internet censorship laws, which have been boosted with the new cybersecurity law, have driven out most tech companies from operating in the country. But social media behemoth Facebook is working on a new software tool which could subdue posts related to prohibited topics from appearing in user’s news feed in certain geographical areas, reports New York Times.
Sources (or anonymous Facebook employees) aware of the development mention that the company has been working on this software to specifically open access to its social network in China, where it is currently blocked. They further also suggest that founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a strong supporter of the said software. He is ready to sacrifice the availability of a complete community experience in favor of not being able to connect and make his social network available to the Chinese masses.
But instead of handling the charge of suppressing the posts itself, Facebook is looking to outsource the tool to a third-party Chinese firm – a local establishment. This censorship tool will enable the third-party to monitor popular stories being shared by users and hide those which violate the government’s internet laws. They’ll most likely have full control over the content which would appear in the user’s news feed.
This report indicates that the company is supporting the government’s censorship laws for the benefit of the people and the platform. It is planning to give up on its mission of making the world ‘more open and connected’ to gain more users and ad revenue — which has reached max load in the current quarter. This has reportedly also led to the departure of certain employees working on the said tool.
For the past couple years, Facebook has internally been working on ways to partner with the Chinese government to introduce the social network in the country and connect its 1.4 billion people. The company has discussed multiple ideas for entering into China and this seems to be the latest effort. However, the anonymous sources, with access to the code report that the software is currently lying idle and hasn’t been used or offered to the authorities of China — and it probably shouldn’t.
This software and internal censorship may reek havoc on the citizens who post even a single shred of negative comment(or post) against the government and their working policies. With regard to the same, an official statement shared by a Facebook spokesperson reads:
We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country. However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China. Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.
The reports of the existence of this tool come on the heels of the social network being insistently accused of suppressing certain posts(and surfacing fake ones) on the platform, which might have led to unexpected the election outcome. Zuckerberg has, however, not only twice defended the integrity of the platform but also laid out a comprehensive plan(and a set of tools) which will make the platform more intuitive and news-friendly. But I cannot say the same for China.