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Facebook Developed Censorship Software for China: Report

Facebook has developed software capable of suppressing certain posts in China in an effort to get its ban in the country lifted, according to reports.

The New York Times says that Facebook developed the censorship tool to stop posts from appearing in people’s news feeds within certain geographical regions. The report says that Facebook hopes the software will help it to operate in China once again; the social network was blocked in the country in 2009, just one year after launching there.

As Bloomberg points out, Facebook faces a battle to succeed in China. It had only a few hundred thousand users at the point it was blocked, and since then a number of rivals have emerged to rule social media in China. These include Tencent QQ, WeChat, and Sina Weibo.

This latest development would enable third-parties, rather than Facebook itself, to decide which posts are promoted on users’ news feeds. It would give these third-parties the power to monitor what was being read and shared on the site and make a decision whether to censor content from there.

It is worth noting that, according to the report, the software hasn’t been offered to China. It is still in the experimental stage and may never actually be released. In a statement Facebook said: “We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country.”

No decision on Facebook’s future approach to China has been made, the statement added.

Facebook’s most recent Government Requests Report revealed that the site is no stranger to blocking content. However, this is generally only if it’s served with a court order.

In the United Kingdom, for example, Facebook said it “restricted access to 97 items in compliance with legal requests from the Gambling Commission.” In Russia, meanwhile, 56 items on content were blocked due to “allegedly violating the integrity of the Russian Federation and local law which forbids activities such as mass public riots and the promotion and sale of drugs.”

Facebook has come under fire recently for the proliferation of fake news on its website. Although Mark Zuckerberg has denied the problem, many commentators have suggested that the issues may have been severe enough to have played a part in the US election, were Donald Trump claimed an unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton.

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