Facebook has reportedly developed a censorship tool to help convince China to make the social media network available in China. The confidential software would suppress posts from showing up in people's news feeds in specific geographic areas, the New York Times reported citing three current and former Facebook employees.
The employees also claimed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has "supported and defended" the efforts to develop the tool designed to help the social media network re-enter the Chinese market. Zuckerberg recently spent time with President Xi Jinping, made multiple visits to China to visit top internet leaders and has taken the time to learn Mandarin, NYT reported.
Facebook has regularly removed content from its platform at the request of foreign governments. The new tool, however, would prevent certain posts from ever appearing in users' news feeds, sources told the publication.
The Facebook staffers said that the company will not suppress the posts itself but will offer the tool to help a third-party monitor popular stories and topics that pop up as users continue to share them on the platform. Facebook's third party partner would apparently have full control to decide whether or not those posts should appear in users' news feeds.
However, the employees did emphasise that the software is one of many ideas discussed by the social media giant to help it enter China and, like many experimental ideas being developed by the social media giant, may never actually be used. They added that there is currently no indication that Facebook has offered the tool to Chinese authorities.
Back in 2009, Facebook was blocked in China following the deadly Urumqi riots in July over concerns that the platform could be used to organize anti-government protests.
"We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country," Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Aryah told Reuters in an emailed statement. "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."
Several Facebook employees working on the censorship tool have reportedly left the company. During an all-staff meeting earlier this summer, Zuckerberg was questioned about the project.
"It's better for Facebook to be a part of enabling conversation, even if it's not yet the full conversation," Zuckerberg is reported to have said.