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Bits: Daily Report: Facebook Courts China With Censoring Software

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Facebook ads at a mobile internet conference in Beijing this year. Credit Andy Wong/Associated Press..

Facebook has been in the spotlight for the last few weeks over issues including how fake news on the social network may have influenced American voters and for disclosing new errors in its measurement of digital ads.

Now add another topic to that list.

Mike Isaac, a technology reporter at The New York Times, reports that Facebook has quietly built software to suppress posts in people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas. The software would let a third party, such as a partner company, monitor what was shared on the social network and then decide what to censor. The tool was developed specifically to help the company get into China, which has banned Facebook since 2009 because of strict censorship rules.

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The tool has not been used and may never be deployed, Mike reports. But its development goes against one of Facebook’s stated missions, to make “the world more open and connected.

It’s a reminder that Facebook is a profit-making and publicly held enterprise. Even with about 1.8 billion users, the social network wants to — some investors might say needs to — keep growing. China is highly tempting in that regard because with a population of 1.4 billion, it is one of the biggest untapped markets for the company.

The Bits newsletter will be on hiatus until Monday.

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NYT > Technology

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