Facebook has built a censorship tool keeping China in mind: Report

Facebook's censoring tool could filter news feeds at the social network in specific places such as China.

By: AFP | San Francisco | Published:November 23, 2016 10:35 am
Facebook, Facebook China, Facebook censoring tool, Facebook censorship tool, Facebook ban China, Zuckerberg in China, Facebook China market, technology, technology news Facebook is looking at a censorship tool for China, a market in which it has been banned since 2009. (Image source: Reuters)

Facebook has built a tool for geographically censoring posts at the leading social network as it seeks a path back into China, The New York Times reported. The New York Times cited three current and former Facebook employees, who asked for anonymity, as saying that the tool could filter news feeds at the social network in  specific places.

“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement emailed in response to an AFP inquiry. “However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China.”

Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has supported the effort to build the tool for censoring posts, according to the New York Times story. Zuckerberg has spent years studying Mandarin, and has met with Chinese leaders and visited that country. The social network has been banned in China since 2009, evidently due to the interest by authorities there to control information shared or movements organised using the internet.

Facebook restricted content in a score of countries in the second half of last year, according to the most recent transparency report released by the California-based company. US internet companies have a practice of complying with legitimate government requests to block posted information in keeping with local laws, subject to evaluation.

For example, Facebook said that in Russia it restricted content authorities there said violated “the integrity of the Russian Federation and local law which forbids activities such as mass public riots and the promotion and sale of drugs.” The transparency report said that access to items in Pakistan was restricted due to allegations that local blasphemy laws were violated.

Read: Facebook’s fake news problem: Chrome extension called FIB can help

In France, Facebook restricted content reported under laws prohibiting denying the Holocaust or condoning terrorism the transparency report said. Posts of an image related to the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris were removed on the grounds they violated French laws related to the protection of human dignity, according to the transparency report.

The software tool created quietly with China in mind would prevent posts from happening instead of waiting to follow up on government complaints to have them removed, the New York Times story said.