Facebook Must Stay Out of China

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
November 28, 2016

Andrew McLaughlin, technology executive:

Though it has been evident for years that Mark Zuckerberg really, really wants Facebook to operate in China, I’m genuinely surprised that the company appears, finally, to have made the decision to do it.

I’m surprised for two big reasons:

First, Facebook will have to facilitate Chinese spying on non-Chinese users. To operate in China, Facebook will have to comply not only with the party’s onerous censorship demands but also with its user surveillance requirements. Through a multi-layered latticework of necessary operating licenses, the Chinese authorities require social networks and providers of messaging services — Facebook is both — to be willing and able to turn over user data, including account details and the contents of posts and private communications.

Doing the bidding of China’s state security apparatus will put Facebook in a position of collaboration that goes far beyond what any prominent U.S. tech company has agreed to. The contrast with Google is instructive. In 2006, Google entered China as a search engine — an “internet content provider,” in the taxonomy of Chinese regulators — but deliberately excluded from its China-licensed sites any services that entailed individual user data or private communications. In that way, Google subjected its China-directed search engine to censorship requirements but avoided any obligation to comply with surveillance requests from a government prone to human rights violations. (Beyond an abstract revulsion at the prospect of assisting political persecution, we had watched with horror the imprisonment of Chinese journalist Shi Tao after Yahoo’s Hong Kong subsidiary handed over to Beijing the contents of his email account.)

Read the full piece at Foreign Policy