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Censorship may gain Facebook entry into China and hand Merkel a fourth term

Facebook has reportedly built a software tool for China to censor users as a first step to re-enter the Chinese market. The report also stated that it would be outsourcing censorship duties to a third-party company.

Published: November 23, 2016, 5:45 pm

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    According to a report in the New York Times, Facebook developed software which erases unwanted posts geographically after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, met with China’s propaganda chief Liu Yunshan in March to discuss a re-entry of his company in China where it has been banned since 2009.

    China kicked out the website following the Urumqi riots in July 2009 under efforts to limit the flow of information about ethnic unrest.

    The new tool would prevent posts from ever being included in the News Feed, the newspaper added. Facebook is eyeing China, with its 1.3 billion residents as a source of enormously lucrative potential growth.

    Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company was building new tools to censor “fake news” also called “hyper-partisan propaganda” in order to promote “a diversity of information”.

    But the new censorship tool would essentially allow for the manipulation of public opinion, preventing users from posting offending articles while towing the party line – hardly a contribution to “diverse” viewpoints.

    According to the Times report, several employees have already walked out in protest. Google, Twitter and YouTube are also banned in China.

    Meanwhile the country in the EU “with the least populism” as a result of vigorously legislating free speech, on Wednesday vowed to fight “hate speech” on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube.

    Under a program that runs until March, German authorities are monitoring how many anti-migrant posts are deleted within 24 hours. Justice Minister Heiko Maas has pledged to take legislative measures if the results are “unsatisfactory” by then. Designated “victims”, immigrants, must be protected from ideas that would hurt their feelings, according to German authorities.

    “I support efforts by Justice Minister Heiko Maas and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to address hate speech, hate commentaries, devastating things that are incompatible with human dignity, and to do everything to prohibit it because it contradicts our values,” Angela Merkel said in a speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament, clearly in the hope that heightened government censorship would save her bid for a fourth term.

    In September 2015 Merkel was caught on an open mike, asking Facebook CEO Zuckerberg if he would help suppress “anti-immigration” postings… and he replied that he was already working on it.

    karin@praag.org

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