Friday, June 10, 2011

Facebook in China: What Price Free Speech?

Mr. Zuckerberg hinted at how he'll answer those who worry about compromises Facebook might make to get into China:

"I don't want Facebook to be an American company," he said. "I don't want it to be this company that just spreads American values all across the world. ...For example, we have this notion of free speech that we really love and support at Facebook, and that's one of the main things that we're trying to push with openness. But different countries have their different standards around that. ...My view on this is that you want to be really culturally sensitive and understand the way that people actually think."

Soon afterward, Mr. Zuckerberg made the rounds of Chinese Internet companies, visiting Baidu and Sina. Facebook continues to explore possible partnerships, and Mr. Zuckerberg, who is studying Mandarin, may travel to China again this year.

"This is a train wreck waiting to happen," says a businessman in Beijing familiar with China's Internet legacy. He and others believe Facebook will be allowed into the country, subjected to the same treatment Google and Yahoo received, and then spit out—its reputation for openness damaged, and its technology metabolized by a China eager to find new ways to spy on its citizens. The potential price for Facebook: its standing in the U.S., its most important advertising market.
An eye opening story that you should read from the WSJ.

So Mark Zuckerberg is either sensationally bad at spin, "notion of free speech that we really love and support at Facebook" (Notion?  Nice downgrading of a basic American value that has helped him to become wealthy and privileged. Albeit a notion he is reluctant to "force" on other countries, evidently.) ... or he possibly thinks we weren't watching when Google or Yahoo tried to do a little business in China.

I remember what happened at Tiananmen Square. So does the Chinese government who has been jailing bloggers, church goers, and others with American-style notions.

I keep thinking of Reagan and his, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall" speech.

But then Reagan had the courage of his convictions.

If Mark Zuckerberg were there, he'd have acted as if the wall didn't exist while bribing the guards to let him through ... as long as he could make money on selling chocolate bars on the other side ... and apologized for being an American.

I'm not Facebook's target audience and, truth be told, I use it minimally. They wouldn't care much if I dropped my account.

However, Hannah's rather upset about this little development. She says she can live without Facebook if they go into China.

Question is, can Facebook live without Hannah and her friends ... if enough people like her feel they're are endorsing torture every time they use Facebook?

How lucky does Mark Zuckerberg feel?


  1. I'm not surprised. Zuckerberg has even <a href="> has distanced Facebook from the Arab Spring </a>.

  2. Hi Julie,

    I don't know how to speak Chinese. The Bible says things like "His ways are not our ways" and like to think that big business is not our business. If my neighbors are having a husband & wife fight, neither of them give a darn what I think, even if I want to move my thoughts into their fight.

    Further, if Facebook fell off the face of this earth, nothing would change. People would just go back to e-mail, and "god forbid" snail mail.


  3. Jen ... precisely.

    Tom, I'm not sure what you're getting at. :-)

  4. Facebook is blocked in China, but you can use a proxy or VPN service like to unblock it..