Facebook Considers China: "We're Allowing Too Much, Maybe, Free Speech" Facebook Considers China: "We're Allowing Too Much, Maybe, Free Speech"
Culture

Facebook Considers China: "We're Allowing Too Much, Maybe, Free Speech"

by Cord Jefferson

April 23, 2011

As Facebook considers a move into the Chinese market, where it's currently banned, a lobbyist working for the powerful social networking site in Washington, D.C., told the Wall Street Journal that the company is "allowing too much, maybe, free speech in countries that haven't experienced it before."

Too much free speech, huh? Compare that to the ostensibly populist mentality of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who last year said on 60 Minutes, "When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place. So, what we view our role as, is giving people that power."

Since its founding in 2004, Facebook's been most recently heralded as a valuable tool for demonstrations in the Middle East. One man was actually so pleased with the site's part in the Egyptian uprising—during which Facebook messages were used to galvanize and organize protesters—that he named his newborn daughter "Facebook Jamal Ibrahim." That's why the company's willingness to succumb to China's overzealous and downright frightening censorship laws seems so misguided.

Sure, a foray into China would give Facebook access to the world's largest collection of internet users (457 million, according to Bloomberg). But it would also force the billion-dollar brand to renege on its stated mission of "giving people power," and it would further enrich a nation that swiftly jails dissenters with  ever-new ways of scuttling speech.

Facebook shares are now trading at an $80 billion valuation, a number that would likely increase if the site could actually get a foothold in China. But—and this a question everyone doing business in China should be asking—is it worth it?

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Facebook Considers China: "We're Allowing Too Much, Maybe, Free Speech"