Facebook seems to have snuck an app into China after years of struggling to convince the country’s leadership to stop blocking its virtual programs, according to a New York Times report published Friday.
The social media company was apparently able to penetrate the usually impervious Chinese market by using a local company to release the photo-sharing app known as Colorful Balloons. Paul Mozur of TheNYT was able to detect the clandestine, international business maneuver by comparing Facebook’s Moments app to the one being tested in China. The app, though, will reportedly not carry the Facebook label.
Facebook has been formally forbidden in China since 2009, despite many attempts over the years by CEO Mark Zuckerberg to woo government officials. The covert, and perhaps creative, tactics conducted to achieve a long-sought goal exemplifies Facebook’s (and the larger U.S. tech community’s) desire to be accepted by China. The world’s largest country usually favors domestic businesses as a national policy, often rendering the enterprises quasi-private in the process. But by Facebook showing such eagerness, China presumably knows they have the upper hand, allowing it to force wishful, foreign tech companies to capitulate to their demands.
China is infamous for its crackdown on internet content it deems obscene or a violation of its laws. Known as the “Great Firewall of China,” many citizens are technically prohibited from accessing certain websites and utilizing particular online capabilities. And it appears the country has been vamping up their already frequent censorship initiatives even more so recently. The government directed tech companies in July to block their users from accessing secure internet systems known as virtual private networks (VPNs). It gave an ultimatum of Feb. 1, 2018, a deadline that was apparently generous given the fact that Apple yielded only a couple of weeks after the order. Officials are also currently investigating the country’s most popular social media and messaging platforms, including WeChat, Weibo, and Tieba, according to a Friday report from AFP.
Facebook had to use audacious methods to circumvent the obstacles the Chinese government imposes.
“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways” Facebook said, according to Business Insider. “Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”
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