Is Facebook really neutral in controlling censorship?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, talks with fellow participants after the opening ceremony of the China Development Forum at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Sunday, March 20, 2016. (File photo: AP)

The news of Facebook secretly developing software to be used as a censorship tool has led to speculation that Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is attempting to appease China’s leaders in an attempt to reenter the Chinese market.

“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country,” Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Aryah told Al Arabiya English, adding that they have not made any decision on how to approach China.

However, former and current Facebook employees leaked information – under anonymity – to the New York Times on Tuesday that the social media network had created a censorship software in order to get back into China. The software, according to the source, was supported and defended by Zuckerberg.

Earlier this year, Zuckerberg met China’s propaganda chief Liu Yunshan who said he hoped Facebook could strengthen exchanges and improve mutual understanding with China’s internet companies, China’s state news agency Xinhua said.

China, which has the world's largest population of Internet users, banned the website following the Urumqi riots in July 2009 between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese in an effort to stem the flow of information about ethnic unrest, which left 140 people dead.

Although Facebook has developed the new tool, the sources revealed that it does not intend to block the posts itself, but rather offer the software to enable a third party to monitor popular stories and topics.

Fake news

After the US elections, and the speculation surrounding Facebook and the elections, Zuckerberg announced new steps to counter fake news on the platform.

The social network was widely criticized for allowing false stories to circulate in the run-up to the US presidential election, which some believe, influenced its outcome.

“We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously,” the spokeswoman said. She, however, conceded that there is more work to be done in this domain.

Facebook is currently taking steps to address its role in spreading fake news and enlisted the help of third-party fact-checkers.

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Last Update: 10:59 KSA 13:59 - GMT 10:59
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