tech2 News StaffNov 23, 2016 11:39:05 IST
After dealing with India, its government, its media and its citizens, in what would appear to be a failed attempt at bringing the free internet to the country, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has redirected his attention to China, a country where it is blocked currently.
Despite the flak that Facebook has been getting since the US presidential elections for spreading fake news, Facebook has to grow, and China seems to be the best place to get its next billion users.
But with strict censorship laws in place, China may not be everyone's cup of tea (including Google), so how do you deliver an open Facebook in China? Simple, you censor content using a sophisticated censorship tool, that has been built from the ground up just for this purpose.
The New York Times has reported that Facebook is indeed looking at censoring content for the China region, if it plans to enter the country, which is known for its 'walled gardens'. Facebook entering China would be big for the social network as per the report and Facebook has even coded a tool in place to help overcome this hurdle.
As per current and former Facebook employees, the tool has been lying in the system for some time and that it was built to overcome such hurdles, but never used. But the same source also claims that the censorship tool like many other Facebook experiments may never see the light of day.
The idea is very different from blocking content upon request, like Facebook provides for the countries where it operates in. Facebook will simply filter all content and prevent the content from even entering its News Feeds as a default. So a Facebook user in China would have no clue about the news even if it was published.
As the NYT report points out, Facebook would not be handling the censorship process itself, but will be outsourcing the same to a Chinese partner company instead. As smart as it sounds, the company indeed seems to be playing fair, just that its statements about making the world a more "open and connected place" make no sense beyond this.
This has a bigger impact indeed. And it turns out that employees have quit the social network after pondering over the outcomes of these censorship rules. This makes more sense after what happened with the US presidential elections where Facebook was blamed for playing a big role in spreading fake news and eventually influencing the elections.
Facebook has been blocked in China since July 2009, following the Ürümqi riots where activists used the social network to communicate. Using VPN, you can still access Facebook in China though. Even today every single social network in China complies to government norms on censorship, so even if Facebook openly states it, it users will welcome it as they are used to filtered content.
China is not the first country to block Facebook. The social network has been blocked in a number of countries including Russia, Turkey and Pakistan. Censorship on Facebook is a topic of discussion even in developed countries like Germany and the UK as well.
In the UK, back in 2011, Facebook pages of groups were either removed or suspended as part of nationwide crackdown on political activity. Indeed, all of this hints that it is the governments that want a modified version of Facebook and not the other way around.
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