Facebook is allegedly developing a censorship tool in order to enter the Chinese market. This tool will allow third-party Chinese companies to have total control over content, by selecting the information users can share online.
Facebook is reportedly developing a censorship tool in order to break into the Chinese market. Although no official confirmation has been released, it seems the social network is interested in expanding its business to the country with the highest number of Internet users.
As a matter of fact, Mark Zuckerberg has been spending time with the Chinese Premier Xi Keqiang and has started learning Mandarin, so as to better understand China. This news could change the actual situation, as Facebook has being banned in China since 2009 following the Urumqi riots. The social network was allegedly adopted by independence activists to organise protests.
Censorship is at the basis of the Chinese system when it comes to releasing information over the internet and the Chinese government strictly monitors the kind of information users access online and blocks a wide range of topics from being made public. In this respect, the Facebook censorship tool could be the right trigger for the corporation to enter the emerging market. Nevertheless, according to cybersecurity expert Adam Segal, censorship is only the starting point to break into the so-far impenetrable Chinese market.
“Censorship is only the starting point to break into the so-far impenetrable Chinese market”
click to tweet
To succesfully enter the Chinese market, Facebook must face the fierce competition of WeChat, the undisputed champion in the Chinese social networking arena, with around 697 million active users. WeChat is so deeply rooted in Chinese people’s lifestyle, that it would be extremely difficult for Facebook to persuade WeChat users to use a different social network. Furthermore, in order to develop its business in China, Facebook should prove in concrete deeds its willingness to align with the restrictive Chinese censorship. The social network should strengthen its collaborations in China, find a local partner and allow it to have full control over the management of its censorship software. This third-party company would be therefore able to monitor the visibility of users’ posts according to its restrictive rules.
It is not the first time that Facebook limits content on behalf of governments in order to respect national laws. In Russia, for instance, it blocked access to information related to activities considered against the Russian Federation; in France, the social network suppressed content that, according to the French government, were promoting terrorism. Facebook has also taken measures in Pakistan in order to comply with the local blasphemy laws. Nevertheless, in the case of China, by allowing a third-party Chinese company to have full control over its censorship tool, Facebook could end up being subordinate to a more empowered Chinese government. As the East Asia director for Amnesty International Nicholas Bequelin explained, the Chinese authorities could take advantage of the social network to use it as a surveillance tool.