What’s more important to Facebook: freedom of information or expanding its empire into China?
Suggesting the latter, the social giant has reportedly developed software that can stop posts from showing up in users’ News Feeds based on their geographic location.
The software -- as sources tell The New York Times -- was designed to appease Chinese government officials and their fears Facebook could be used to spread information too freely.
More startling still, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a fan of the software, according to NYTs’ sources.
This would not be the first Facebook has worked with foreign governments to block what they perceive to be sensitive or threatening content. Early last year, the company reportedly blocked Turkish users’ access to pages featuring content that authorities deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.
At the moment, Facebook makes virtually no money in China. And, as recently as last December, the country’s officials said they planned to keep it that way.
Along with Twitter and other foreign sites, Lu Wei, head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, said in 2015 that it remained in the country’s best interest to keep Facebook out.
“I … may choose who comes into my house,” Wei told reporters at a briefing on the country’s upcoming World Internet Conference. “They can come if they are friends.”
In other words, Wei and his fellow apparatchiks still didn’t consider Mark Zuckerberg a “friend,” despite the CEO’s vigorous efforts to win them over.
Earlier in 2015, Facebook pursued an alliance with Xiaomi. The social giant was ready to participate in the Chinese hardware company’s recent fund-raising round, but reportedly failed to agree on investment terms.
In late 2014, Zuckerberg made headlines after showing off his fluent Mandarin during a question-and-answer session at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Technically banned in China since 2009, Facebook has pursued international growth by other means. For example, the social giant -- which has historically pioneered connectivity strategies — such as its Internet.org initiative in 2013 -- has made strides in targeting mobile consumers in developing nations.
With China, Facebook is missing out on serious revenue. In 2013 alone, Chinese e-commerce amounted to $865 billion dollars, according to McKinsey & Co.