It’s no secret that Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook back in China. The country has blocked the social network since 2009, denying it access to 1.4 billion potential users. The CEO made a very public visit to the Asian nation earlier this year, and now his company is reportedly attempting to appease Xi Jinping’s government by building a censorship tool.
The New York Times reports that the technology can block certain posts from appearing in the news feeds of users in some regions. Facebook wouldn’t be the one to censor the items; instead, this power would be given to a third-party, most likely a partner Chinese company.
In July, Facebook employees asked Zuckerberg about the technology at one of the company's weekly Q&A sessions. “It’s better for Facebook to be a part of enabling conversation, even if it’s not yet the full conversation,” he replied.
The report goes on to state that the tool is just one of many ideas Facebook has come up with as a way into China, and it may never be officially released. Nevertheless, several employees who were working on it have left the company after expressing concerns over the feature.
Mike Isaac, who wrote the Times article, tweeted a piece of information that didn’t make the final report: it was the US election result and fear of the Trump administration accessing the tool that scared sources into leaking its details.
of note: it was post-election result that scared some sources into discussing this tool, for fear of a hostile U.S. admin accessing it— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) November 22, 2016
A Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement: “We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country. However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China.”
The news comes at a bad time for Facebook. The company has faced criticism recently for not doing enough to fight the spread of fake news stories. Now, it will no doubt be accused of putting ethics aside for the sake of extra profit.