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Facebook is reportedly building a censorship tool that will enable it to enter the lucrative Chinese market. The social media giant is finally giving in to the demands of Chinese authorities to grow its business.
Could China Possibly Allow Facebook?
It’s no secret that Facebook has been trying to crack the Chinese market for quite some years now, and it’s no surprise since a country with over 700 million internet users is extremely lucrative for all the right reasons. The social media giant has been banned in China since 2009 due to ethnic unrest. The Chinese government has strict rules about online content and what users post to social media, but according to a New York Times article, Facebook is now developing secret software that will allow Chinese authorities to censor certain information in exchange for permission to operate in the country.
Human rights activists believe that this is just like giving into censorship. It’s ironic since Facebook has neither confirmed nor denied the story. However, Facebook’s Chief Executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has been in close contact with Chinese leaders in the recent years following the ban on the social giant.
The company made a statement saying
“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 of China by using our ad platform.”
China has one of the largest internet-using populations in the world, making it an important market for a social company like Facebook. On average, Facebook has 1.8 billion monthly users and it wants to expand that user base by getting Chinese people onboard.
Facebook has restricted content before in countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, and Russia. It blocked around 55,000 pieces of content in over 20 countries last year. Facebook calls the Chinese market as the “next billion market”. Earlier this year, Facebook started with a project called Facebook Zero in India where they wanted to give free internet to internet users in India. However, it got pushed back by the Indian government.
China is an integral market for Facebook due to the sheer size of internet users in just one country alone.
Facebook Is Certainly Not The Only Victim
Facebook is not the only company to face such hurdles, but other tech companies such as Twitter, YouTube, and Google amongst various other enterprises have gone through the same route. However, that certainly does not mean that Facebook will be instantly liked and become successful in this market as earlier this year Uber had to sell its operations in China to one of its local competitors. There are a lot of companies that have come to China, only to face the many censorship challenges. A lot of it has to do with cultural differences of the Chinese people which sets their likes and dislikes apart from the west.
Internet censorship is of immediate importance to the Chinese government, and it’s being reported that Facebook censorship might get outsourced to a local Chinese company who will make sure no such content gets uploaded that violates the rules and regulations set by the Chinese government.
Having a local censorship agency won’t necessarily elude the chances of content getting posted online. A lot of companies have come to China believing the huge market would be a profitable investment for them, only to find out their cash flows are in negative and leaving with an undesired outcome.
The government of China believes that the internet will be used as a column to spread unrest within the country and possibly result in riots as previously witnessed in 2009. The government cannot vet a platform where they have no control over who is using, posting and sharing content. Due to the authoritarian leadership style, democratic values are undermined in China.
With all that being said, a person, residing or traveling to China must resort to safe measures while accessing online content. This can be achieved through a simple tool known as a Virtual Private Network aka VPN.
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