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Facebook In China
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Facebook In China

Rumors are starting to fly about Facebook in China, on both Western and Chinese Internet space. However, as an American in China, I find the idea of Facebook in China laughable. Not that kind of "ha ha" funny, but in the kid of way that you laugh at a kid when he tells you in all seriousness that he can run faster in new shoes. Facebook is NOT coming to China.

Headlines should instead read "Mark Zuckerberg Opening New Social Networking Site". While social networking seems to be synonymous with Facebook these days, whatever Zuckerberg does bring to China, if it comes to anything at all, will be something that is very different from the Facebook that western net users are used to. There are a few reasons that Facebook in China just won't happen and you guessed it, most are directly related to strict control on Internet censorship.

Social networking is heavily monitored in China, and even private messages between users are openly watched and scanned for "hot words" or "sensitive topics". Last year, even before whole Twitter / Facebook thing in Egypt, China mobile announced that it would be monitoring texts and phone calls for pornography and anyone caught with these things on their phones would be prosecuted.

Another battle that Zuckerberg will have to fight before he can get Facebook in China has to do with the recent upheaval in Egypt and the role Facebook had in the political change there. Most people in China are unaware of it, but you can be the Chinese government knows about it, and is working to stifle any local similarities. In March 2011 the concept of the Jasmine Revolution, a movement imitating what happened in Egypt sparked nation wide VPN site blocking and Gmail and Google in China just haven't been the same since.

Facebook in China however, is going to have to fight one last battle that doesn't have to do with the Chinese government, and doesn't have to do with Internet censorship. This is something that you can't analyze with numbers, and you've got to be here to understand it. While there is a small percentage of well-educated, worldly and cultured people here that are looking forward to Facebook, there are many more average people who just follow what the TV and newspapers tell them. While they may not see Facebook as a means to bring "western evil" or something extreme like that, many people see it as just another for The West to make money off Chinese people and control the Chinese market. Some see it a just a way to meet "easy" western girls. Many people are wary, if not disinterested in Facebook in China.

So after doing battle with the Chinese government and Chinese Netizens, what is left of Facebook in China? Not much. Whatever Zuckerberg bring to China (he's rumored to have teamed up with Baidu), will not bear the Facebook name or any resemblance to it. Features will be change according to censorship and cultural standards. It will be a completely different product and a completely different user-experience. It's not Facebook in China, it's Zuckerberg and co. in China.


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