Censorship tool built as Face­book eyes China re­turn

The Myanmar Times - - World -

FACE­BOOK has built a tool for ge­o­graph­i­cally cen­sor­ing posts at the lead­ing so­cial net­work as it seeks a path back into China.

The New York Times cited three cur­rent and for­mer Face­book em­ploy­ees, who asked for anonymity, as say­ing that the tool could fil­ter news feeds at the so­cial net­work in spe­cific places.

“We have long said that we are in­ter­ested in China, and are spend­ing time un­der­stand­ing and learn­ing more about the coun­try,” a Face­book spokesper­son said in a state­ment emailed in re­sponse to an AFP in­quiry.

“How­ever, we have not made any de­ci­sion on our ap­proach to China.”

Face­book co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Zucker­berg has sup­ported the ef­fort to build the tool for cen­sor­ing posts, ac­cord­ing to the New York Times story.

Mr Zucker­berg has spent years study­ing Man­darin, and has met with Chi­nese lead­ers and vis­ited that coun­try.

The so­cial net­work has been banned in China since 2009, ev­i­dently due to the in­ter­est by au­thor­i­ties there to con­trol in­for­ma­tion shared or move­ments or­gan­ised us­ing the in­ter­net.

Face­book re­stricted con­tent in a score of coun­tries in the sec­ond half of last year, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent trans­parency re­port re­leased by the Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pany.

US in­ter­net com­pa­nies have a prac­tice of com­ply­ing with le­git­i­mate govern­ment re­quests to block posted in­for­ma­tion in keep­ing with lo­cal laws, sub­ject to eval­u­a­tion.

For ex­am­ple, Face­book said that in Rus­sia it re­stricted con­tent au­thor­i­ties there said vi­o­lated “the in­tegrity of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion and lo­cal law which for­bids ac­tiv­i­ties such as mass public ri­ots and the pro­mo­tion and sale of drugs”.

The trans­parency re­port said that ac­cess to items in Pak­istan was re­stricted due to al­le­ga­tions that lo­cal blas­phemy laws were vi­o­lated.

In France, Face­book re­stricted con­tent re­ported un­der laws pro­hibit­ing deny­ing the Holo­caust or con­don­ing ter­ror­ism.

Posts of an im­age re­lated to the Novem­ber 2015 ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Paris were re­moved on the grounds they vi­o­lated French laws re­lated to the pro­tec­tion of hu­man dig­nity, ac­cord­ing to the trans­parency re­port.

The soft­ware tool cre­ated qui­etly with China in mind would pre­vent posts from hap­pen­ing in­stead of wait­ing to fol­low up on govern­ment com­plaints to have them re­moved, the New York Times story said.

Rather than cen­sor­ing posts it­self, the idea would be to give the tool to a third-party, per­haps a part­ner in China, to use to de­cide what shows up in news feeds at the so­cial net­work.

Photo: EPA

Founder and CEO of Face­book Mark Zucker­berg (left) speaks to jour­nal­ists dur­ing an event at the Asia Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion Fo­rum in Lima, Peru,

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