Face­book tak­ing a com­mon sense ap­proach to con­tent in China

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Chang Jun Con­tact the writer at junechang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

It re­mains the con­ven­tional wis­dom among over­seas com­pa­nies that their suc­cess or fail­ure in China will be largely de­ter­mined by the ef­fec­tive­ness of their lo­cal strate­gies.

There are ap­prox­i­mately 77 mil­lion for­eign com­pa­nies that op­er­ate in China in some fash­ion, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by China’s Ad­min­is­tra­tion for In­dus­try and Com­merce in Jan­uary.

It came as no sur­prise to me that dur­ing the re­cent Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day week­end, Face­book, the so­cial net­work­ing gi­ant, was re­ported to have qui­etly cre­ated soft­ware to cen­sor con­tent on its web­site in China, an ef­fort that sig­ni­fies its will­ing­ness to abide by lo­cal laws on cy­ber con­tent and se­cu­rity.

Given China’s mas­sive po­ten­tial as the world’s largest mo­bile and in­ter­net mar­ket with more than 721 mil­lion users, no US brands can af­ford to lose an op­por­tu­nity there.

Face­book is un­der pres­sure for con­tin­u­ous growth and look­ing for its next bil­lion users. It sells ads for many busi­nesses from its Hong Kong of­fice.

Some West­ern ob­servers sus­pect that Face­book is pay­ing too high a price for en­ter­ing the Chi­nese mar­ket; for ex­am­ple, a re­cent ar­ti­cle on Forbes.com called Face­book’s con­tent cen­sor­ship “a tough choice”, and an anal­y­sis at The New York Times re­ferred to the soft­ware as “sup­pres­sion tools”.

All for­eign com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in China need to fol­low lo­cal rules, and they should care­fully con­struct their strate­gies to con­sider dif­fer­ences in ide­ol­ogy, cul­tural and so­cial norms, and more im­por­tantly, the laws of China.

To be ef­fec­tive in China, the man­age­ment of a for­eign com­pany should nur­ture cul­tural sen­si­tiv­ity and dis­play a will­ing­ness to adapt prod­ucts, ser­vices and man­age­ment styles to meet in­dus­try norms. Com­pa­nies must build trust with lo­cal clients and in­dus­try ad­min­is­tra­tors while ad­her­ing to in­ter­na­tional busi­ness stan­dards and cor­po­rate ethics.

I ap­plaud the great ef­forts that Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg has made over the years to cul­ti­vate a re­la­tion­ship with China. He, among sev­eral other CEOs at Amer­i­can high-tech com­pa­nies such as Tim Cook at Ap­ple, Vir­ginia Rometty at IBM and Jef­frey Be­zos at Ama­zon, was re­ceived by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in Seat­tle dur­ing his US state visit in 2015.

Zucker­berg has made him­self a house­hold name in China by vis­it­ing many times, giv­ing a speech at Ts­inghua Univer­sity in Man­darin, jog­ging near the For­bid­den City, and along with his wife and tod­dler daugh­ter, send­ing Chi­nese New Year greet­ings in Man­darin.

Ac­cord­ing to in­sid­ers, the new fea­ture of Face­book’s soft­ware will pre­vent cer­tain con­tent from ap­pear­ing in feeds to com­ply with gov­ern­ment re­quests.

In­stead of block­ing the posts it­self, Face­book would open­source the soft­ware to a third party, most likely a Chi­nese part­ner com­pany, to mon­i­tor sen­si­tive posts that might go vi­ral. It would be the Chi­nese part­ner’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to de­ter­mine whether such con­tent should be re­moved or not.

In re­sponse to em­ploy­ees’ ques­tions about the tool, Zucker­berg said at a gather­ing in July at Face­book’s Menlo Park, Cal­i­for­nia head­quar­ters: “It’s bet­ter for Face­book to be a part of en­abling con­ver­sa­tion, even if it’s not yet the full con­ver­sa­tion (with China).”

A Face­book spokesper­son said “we have long said that we are in­ter­ested in China, and are spend­ing time un­der­stand­ing and learn­ing more about the coun­try”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.