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Facebook Accused of Enabling Censorship To Appease China

Mark-Zuckerberg-Facebook

 

Facebook has developed a new censorship tool as part of an effort to get back into the Chinese market. The world’s largest social media network was banned in that country seven years ago.

But why was it banned? Well social media played a central role in The Arab Spring where governments in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia were toppled. The Chinese government is concerned that Facebook could be used for similar anti-government organization in its country.

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The New York Times reported that Facebook employees revealed to it that the company has developed a tool which can be used to block certain news feeds from appearing in select regions in China. The tool would not be used by the company itself, but by another party like a Facebook partner in China.

 

china-flag-map

 

This comes after Mark Zuckerberg has been courting Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping.

Other social media firms engage in similar practices and Facebook already allows for such censorship in other countries.

Corporate cooperation with government censorship around the world has been a controversial subject for some time now. Internet behemoths like Google have been criticized by free speech groups for allowing countries like China to censor their content.

But do private corporations have a responsibility to not cooperate with non-democratic governments? Well Facebook does not see any conflict here.

“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.”

There is nothing new to controversy surrounding the dealings of private enterprises in non-democratic countries. Oil companies have been lambasted for working with repressive Arab regimes in the Middle East. Throughout the Cold War American firms were often attacked for doing business with dictatorial regimes in El Salvador and The Philippines.

Facebook is probably asking itself whether or not its dealings in China will cause a backlash which will hurt its business elsewhere. The answer is, probably not.

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