The Chinese government is very strict and censorship has become their staple. International companies would have to comply with China's conditions otherwise they will be banned from the country. Facebook seems to change its tunes. Apparently, the tech giant may be building a censorship tool. This move might be part of the company's move to further expand its global market.
Internet freedom in China is pretty moot for its people. In fact, the powerful country in East Asia is infamously known for its "The Great Firewall". A recent report by The New York Times revealed that Facebook has covertly developed a software that prevents users in certain places to see posts from their news feeds. This confidential information has been disclosed by current and former Facebook employees. They added that it was actually created to help the company get into the Chinese market. Apparently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has even supported and defended the said effort.
It's public knowledge that a lot of sites and news platforms are blocked in China. Chinese people are not allowed to search for some topics that the government does not want its citizens to be reading about. There are keywords that will not show in the country's search engine. Facebook would not necessarily do the censorship itself. The New York Times further reports that a third-party in China would actually be the one using that tool.
That local company will ensure that Chinese users will not be able to view content that are against the government's rules. The right to free speech is also an issue in China. Online users who post something against the government face grave consequences. As a social media platform, Facebook becomes a way for people around the world to express their opinions. China sees this as a threat.
It will cost a lot for Facebook to adhere to China's internet censorship. For the company, it will expand its market and earn more ad revenues from billions of Chinese people. The larger the growth of their users, the better it is for Facebook. One asset of Facebook is the user engagement on the social network. However, on the other side, it will just further the abuse of the human's right to free expression. In fact, it will be a clear tolerance. It remains to be seen if Facebook does push through this plan.
The tech company's spokesperson has admitted in a statement to TechCrunch that they are indeed interested in China. Facebook has been "spending time understanding and learning more about the country". But they also mentioned that they "have not made any decision" yet on their approach to China. Though Facebook is "helping Chinese business and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform".
There is definitely a huge benefit of breaking into the Chinese market but it is not easy. For instance, Apple has been trying to do that with the iPhone. However, Chinese consumers prefer the more affordable smartphones like the Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo. As far as internet is concerned, Elon Musk has also acknowledged that China is a big hurdle in his goal of global high-speed internet. The reason being the country's censorship.