Facebook is a global entity – well, kind of. An almost global entity. China, with its strict cyber-censorship laws, is one of very few (less than 15) nations barring its citizens access to the popular social site.
This, however, may soon change. Facebook has created a special software to potentially accommodate China’s harsh censorship demands, according to a report in the New York Times.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is infamous for its severe internet-control; so much so that even typing ‘June 4’ will give you zilch (because it insinuates the Tiananmen Square Massacre that occurred on June 4, 1989). Apparently there is no other reason to search ‘June 4’. Except there is! Did you know that on June 4, 781 BC the oldest Chinese recording of a solar eclipse took place? No one in China will – thanks to their intense censorship. Anything perceived to be “anti-Party” is effectively “erased” from the internet. Even cool facts like the solar eclipse recording.
As far as Facebook goes, in order to access the social network from China, users have been forced to use a VPN (virtual private network), a software designed to fool the location of the device. Facebook’s new special software would make using a VPN unnecessary, and avoid potential ramifications of using one.
However, if Facebook were to appear in China by using this new software tool, it would have to “make concessions” to the CCP’s strict laws. The software “would enable a third-party, likely a Chinese company working with Facebook, to prevent messages from appearing in the first place,” BBC News writes.
Facebook, a $350 billion dollar enterprise with an astounding 1.8 billion active users, is still aggressively seeking to get hold of the world’s unchartered territories – including China. The software would enable the company to do so. But some believe implementing it would be selling out.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group which campaigns for better privacy online, is one such example. The foundation told the BBC that the project sounded “extremely disturbing”.
“Kudos to the Facebook employees who brought this to the attention of the New York Times,” said Eva Galperin, the EFF’s global policy analyst.
“It’s very nice to know there are some principled people still working there.”
NYT journalist Mike Isaac reported that Facebook employees – both past and present – did stress that “like many pieces of software worked on internally, it may never be implemented.”
Facebook PR refused to confirm nor deny the existence of the software, but said in a statement it was “spending time understanding and learning more” about China.