Facebook has received some flack recently for their handling of fake news being shared on the social media platform. While Mark Zuckerberg and crew have announced they altered the site’s policies to address this issue, The New York Times reports how Facebook quietly built a censorship tool that could deal with this issue for Chinese audiences. The goal of gifting the tool to China is for Facebook to re-enter the country after a seven-year ban.
The tool Zuckerberg developed would stifle certain posts from appearing in news feeds in particular geographies. The release of the tool has not been made public, but Zuckerberg met with Chinese Propaganda Chief Liu Yunshan in March, and Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Aryah told Reuters they are taking their time to learn more about the country:
“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country. However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China. Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”
A caveat to the new software is that it will not wipe the posts entirely from the site, but instead have a third party monitor them. The Times adds that Facebook is not even sure if the software will see the light of day:
Facebook does not intend to suppress the posts itself. Instead, it would offer the software to enable a third party — in this case, most likely a partner Chinese company — to monitor popular stories and topics that bubble up as users share them across the social network, the people said. Facebook’s partner would then have full control to decide whether those posts should show up in users’ feeds.
The current and former Facebook employees caution that the software is one of many ideas the company has discussed with respect to entering China and, like many experiments inside Facebook, it may never see the light of day.
The report may cause some frustration for U.S. users as some believe fake news played a part in the presidential election, which Zuck and the Facebook gang have denied.