Facebook Built a Censorship Tool to Appeal to China, and Mark Zuckerberg Approves

If Facebook wants to continue growing, it pretty much has to grow in China. It seems that CEO Mark Zuckerberg is well aware of this fact.

Zuckerberg has visited with China’s President, Xi Jinping, and top internet executives. Sounds lovely. But something a little more sinister may be occurring internally.

According to a gutting New York Times report, “the social network has quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas.” This is so that China—which has Facebook blocked nationwide—might allow the social network to operate in the crucial market.

Zuckerberg, suggests NYT, supports the project, even as the billionaire vows to keep the platform’s News Feed pure.

Facebook does not intend to suppress the posts itself. Instead, it would offer the software to enable a third party—in this case, most likely a partner Chinese company—to monitor popular stories and topics that bubble up as users share them across the social network, the people said. Facebook’s partner would then have full control to decide whether those posts should show up in users’ feeds.

Granted, the technology may never get used, even in China. Even so, the idea that it has been built with such intentions is a powerful concept.

It’s this kind of extreme measure, though, that is probably necessary to truly enter the Chinese market. The nation’s barriers are high and thick—just ask Uber, who hemorrhaged money trying to force itself into China, only to sell its local business to an incumbent rival.

More than 1.3 billion people live in China.

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