Facebook is currently banned in China, but it reportedly aims to change that by implementing a new censorship tool to make it "cleaner" for the Chinese audience.
China strictly controls what internet services, websites and networks its citizens can access and Facebook is among the prohibited ones. Even Google is banned in China, as are numerous others, and the country's tight censorship is dubbed the "Great Firewall of China."
However, Facebook is reportedly working on a new tool that would hide posts regarding prohibited topics so that China users could use the social network without breaking any censorship laws.
The New York Times reports that Facebook would not censor the posts itself, but instead it would put the censorship tool in the hands of a third-party in China. The third-party could use the tool to prevent Chinese users from accessing Facebook content that would be in violation of China's rules.
Would It Work?
There's no doubt that regaining access to China would be like a goldmine for Facebook, opening the social network to a massive amount of users and, implicitly, ad revenue.
However, a crippled version of Facebook with a large number of posts hidden may not hold a candle to the real social network experience. Should this censorship tool be implemented, Chinese users would get access to a severely watered-down Facebook, with only a fraction of the posts available on the social network.
China already has its own social media networks and platforms that it tightly controls and Facebook might not be left with much to set itself apart if it has to censor its presence.
Nevertheless, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes that some Facebook access is still better than no Facebook access.
"It's better for Facebook to be a part of enabling conversation, even if it's not yet the full conversation," Zuckerberg reportedly said during an internal Q&A regarding plans for China, according to the NYT.
Facebook Still Mulling Approach To Penetrate China
There's no evidence yet that Facebook has actually offered this censorship tool to Chinese authorities, and it might never push forward with this project. The toll is apparently just one of a number of ideas Facebook has been mulling, trying to figure out what approach would be best to get its social network into China.
"We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country," a Facebook spokesperson tells TechCrunch. "However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China. Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform."
For now, Chinese companies can purchase Facebook ads that run in regions where the social network is not banned.
It remains to be seen whether Facebook will push forward with this purported censorship tool and manage to seep through the Great Firewall of China and, if so, if Chinese users would be interested in using a watered-down version of Facebook.