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NYT Reports Censorship Tool to Attain China Re-entry Built by Facebook

NYT Reports Censorship Tool to Attain China Re-entry Built by Facebook
After a seven-year ban, Facebook Inc hopes that it can get back access to the Chinese market. Sources in the company, the largest social media platform in the world, were quoted by the New York Times reported on Tuesday that saying that Facebook has quietly developed a censorship tool that could persuade China to allow it re-entry into the world's second largest economy – China.
The newspaper said, citing unnamed current and former employees, that with the complete support of Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has developed the software which has the potential to suppresses posts from appearing in people's news feeds in specific geographies – in this case China.
In March, China's propaganda chief Liu Yunshan that he hopes that he hopes that mutual understanding with China's internet companies would be improved and that Facebook could strengthen exchanges. The state news agency Xinhua had reported this after Zuckerberg had held a meeting with Yunshan.
"We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country," Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Aryah said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
"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."
Following the report that appeared in the New York Times, there were faxed and emailed queries sent to the Cybersecurity Administration of China, the country's internet regulator, but it did not immediately respond for any comment requests. China's foreign ministry declined to comment.
A range of varying regulations exert political pressure on foreign companies in China, especially in media. The internet has been described as the most important front in an ideological battle against "Western anti-China forces" by the country's military newspaper.
In an effort to stem the flow of information about ethnic unrest which left 140 people dead in the Urumqi riots in July 2009 in China, the website was banned by the Chinese authorities. It is but ironical that China has the world's largest population of internet users.
Now Facebook does not intend to suppress the posts itself even though it has developed the new tool, NYT said.
According to the Times, instead third parties would be enabled to monitor popular stories and topics that gain visibility as users share them across the network as Facebook would offer the software to a third party. Full control to decide whether those posts should show up in users' feeds would be up to the third party partner.
The newspaper however reported that no information that Facebook has offered the software to the authorities in China were yet available with it. The report further added that this could never see the light of the day and is perhaps just one of many ideas Facebook has discussed with respect to entering China.
Facebook aims to continue to grow in developing nations where it currently has smaller penetration rates and the company has struggled in recent months to combat allegations that it unfairly removes certain content on its service.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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