Facebook Bends Over for China

"China bans all internet searches for 'big yellow duck' as part of Tiananmen Square anniversary"
Facebook: Still Literally the Worst

The social network has quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people's news feeds in specific geographic areas, according to three current and former Facebook employees, who asked for anonymity because the tool is confidential. The feature was created to help Facebook get into China, a market where the social network has been blocked, these people said. Mr. Zuckerberg has supported and defended the effort, the people added. [...]

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. [...]

"We won't actually censor anything -- we'll just give unfettered access and control to the Chinese government."

The suppression software has been contentious within Facebook, which is separately grappling with what should or should not be shown to its users after the American presidential election's unexpected outcome spurred questions over fake news on the social network. Several employees who were working on the project have left Facebook after expressing misgivings about it, according to the current and former employees. [...]

"Several Facebook employees discovered that they do, in fact, have ethics, claim anonymous sources."

Some analysts have said Facebook's best option is to follow a model laid out by other internet companies and cooperate with a local company or investor. Finding a partner -- and potentially allowing it to own a majority stake in Facebook's China operation -- would take the burden of censorship and surveillance off the Silicon Valley company. It would also let Facebook rely on a local company's government connections and experience to deal with the difficult task of communicating with Beijing.

"When an American company wants to cave to the demands of a foreign totalitarian regime, it always plays better in the media to launder that activity through a shell company."

Facebook's descent into the rabbit hole of censorship is suicidal:

But the intent here is the real problem. In the first place, it shows a decidedly broken moral compass. You know how they keep telling us that open and free trade and relations with totalitarian countries will someday soon lead to more freedom in those countries as its people become more and more exposed to our way of life?

All of that goes out the window when the businesses and politicians trading and dealing with those countries agree to censor the things that make free society free in the first place. Facebook is guilty of this every time it agrees to erase even the evidence of American political free speech with censorship. Politicians are guilty of this every time a female American envoy agrees to ignore our firm belief in religious pluralism by donning a hijab when visiting even non-religious sites in a Muslim country. The list goes on, but the exchange of free ideas and principles is killed by these kinds of unjustified concessions and they destroy the very best reasons for international relations.

Hey, remember when Twitter pulled this same shit and nobody cared?

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9 Responses:

  1. Jieves says:

    You forgot the reminder.

  2. nightbird says:

    This is just the PRC government being concerned about "fake" news.

    I expect fewer people saying "this is outrageous" and more saying "give me the keys."

  3. phuzz says:

    Look on the bright side, it'll remove the "bubble effect" from social media, because instead of reading posts from people with similar opinions to you, you'll only see the ones that trump thinks you should be reading.

    Wait, that's not a silver lining, that's just tinfoil!

  4. MattyJ says:

    Facebook: We won't shoot you, but we'll provide the gun to the guy that will.

  5. Karellen says:

    "We won't actually censor anything -- we'll just give unfettered access and control to the Chinese government."

    And now, all those people who claimed that because Facebook is a private company it couldn't actually "censor" anyone, and thus that claims of censorship were not only false but unproblematic[0], can STFU and crawl back into their holes.

    [0] Because the ubiquitous privatisation of the "public" spaces where we now assemble and discuss the matters of the day means that private crackdowns on certain topics of discussion can, in many ways, be more problematic than governmental ones.

  6. Jon says:

    You really hate Facebook a lot, although not enough to remove the 'Like' button from your blog, it seems.

    • jwz says:

      Why should I not use their own tools against them?

      And why must cheeto-fingered drive-bys like you always attempt to derail the conversation with pointless trivia? Did they teach you that in debate class?

  7. tobias says:

    dehomag all over again

  8. Havari Hatem says:

    How this is going to convince the PRC that Facebook would walk 1000 miles to defeat the Nationalist Menace and exalt the One Party of All Peoples blows right past me. First they took away all the political oxygen, now they seem to be shopping corruption micro derm-abrasion wholesale to all comers.

    All that's left is for an incidental yokel (Shinto hero or Communist hero...what's the game show?) to ride into the city on a cow and install face-recognizing EM trauma masks in the district shopping gates.

    Jon>...not enough to remove the 'Like' button...

    Warm, popular, drowning in tar that won't let go? Why not put a few signs up for those on the unstable ground poised on the lee side of the Styx?

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