Article courtesy of Quartz, written by Josh Horwitz.
Mark Zuckerbeg’s charm offensive in China won’t let up. Over the past few days the Facebook founder and CEO published a controversial photo of himself jogging in smoggy Beijing, and met in person with China’s Minister of Propaganda—an unprecedented move for a foreign business owner. This follows his twenty-minute speech in Mandarin and meetings with Xi Jinping and China’s internet czar last year.
Zuckerberg’s goal, of course, is to bring Facebook to China, which has been blocked by Beijing since 2009. Adding just half of China’s 668 million internet users to Facebook would increase the social network’s total by 20%—and create a lucrative new market for advertising and publishing.
But launching Facebook in the Middle Kingdom as it exists in the rest of the world would be nothing short of a miracle. China’s restrictions on internet freedom and foreign tech companies have grown tighter, not looser, in the past decade. Authorities are cracking down on online dissent, journalism critical of the government, and even the use of VPNs, which were once quietly tolerated.
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China’s demands will make Facebook complicit in “internet sovereignty” to a much greater degree.
When authorities demand Facebook share information about the location or posts of an activist, a journalist, an outspoken scientist, or a local whistleblower, for example, Facebook will have to comply, or risk being blocked. And when that activist or journalist is punished, Facebook will be responsible.