China | Facebook builds censorship tool to attain China re-entry
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is keen to get back into the China market. Photo: Reuters/Mariana Bazo
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is keen to get back into the China market. Photo: Reuters/Mariana Bazo

Facebook builds censorship tool to attain China re-entry

New software suppresses posts from appearing in people's news feeds in specific geographies

November 23, 2016 9:51 AM (UTC+8)

Facebook Inc has developed a censorship tool that could persuade China to allow the world’s biggest social media network to re-enter the country after a seven-year ban, according to the New York Times.

The new software suppresses posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographies, the paper said, citing sources.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in March met China’s propaganda tsar Liu Yunshan who said that he hoped Facebook could strengthen exchanges and improve mutual understanding with China’s internet companies, according to state news agency Xinhua.

“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country,” said Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Aryah.

“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.”

Foreign companies in China, especially in media, face political pressure from a range of regulations. The country’s military newspaper calls the internet the most important front in an ideological battle against “Western anti-China forces.”

China, which has the world’s largest population of internet users, banned the website following the Urumqi riots in July 2009 in an effort to stem the flow of information about ethnic unrest which left 140 people dead.

Though Facebook has developed the new tool, it does not intend to suppress the posts itself, NYT said.

Facebook would instead offer the software to enable a third party to monitor popular stories and topics that gain visibility as users share them across the network, according to the Times. The third party partner would have full control to decide whether those posts should show up in users’ feeds.

There is no indication Facebook has offered the software to the authorities in China, the Times said. It is one of many ideas Facebook has discussed with respect to entering China and it may never see the light of day, it added.

Facebook, which has struggled in recent months to combat allegations that it unfairly removes certain content on its service, aims to continue to grow in developing nations where it currently has smaller penetration rates.

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