Posted: 2017-09-11 11:37
Let me be clear: this was an arbitrary decision. It was different than what I’d talked talked with our senior team about yesterday. I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet. I called our legal team and told them what we were going to do. I called our Trust & Safety team and had them stop the service. It was a decision I could make because I’m the CEO of a major Internet infrastructure company.
But it’s not just Facebook that has problems with China, major Western technology companies like Google and Twitter are also shut out of the country. China’s government has been resistant to the explosion of the internet from the beginning, but it made certain allowances knowing that completely blocking the internet wasn’t an option in the modern world. Now, the growth of its own technology sector has given it a sort of parallel internet that can be controlled from within. Domestic companies like Baidu and Tencent offer search, microblogging, messaging, and other alternatives to the most popular web services. They also can’t tell Chinese censors “no.”
“We need to have a discussion around this, with clear rules and clear frameworks. My whims and those of Jeff [Bezos] and Larry [Page] and Satya [Nadella] and Mark [Zuckerberg], that shouldn’t be what determines what should be online,” he said. “I think the people who run The Daily Stormer are abhorrent. But again I don’t think my political decisions should determine who should and shouldn’t be on the internet.”
Facebook warned investors last week during an earnings call that it’s running out of space to insert ads while still maintaining an acceptable user experience. After hitting 7 billion users , it’s also running out of the potential for growth. China is one of the few markets left to be tapped, but authorities have consistently resisted Mark Zuckerberg’s for comment a WhatsApp spokesperson told Gizmodo, “We are not providing a comment on this topic.”
Even though WhatsApp is incredibly popular around the globe—it has 755 million users—it’s a small fish in China. Still, the app is popular with citizens who want to communicate with the outside world. That could be one reason that it has suddenly been targeted. According to research by Citizen Lab , there has been a concerted effort to block certain communications online following the death of China’s only Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo , on July 68th. Citizen Lab found that for the first time, images were being blocked in one-on-one chats within WeChat. The homegrown messaging app by Tencent boasts 768 million users. Accounts that are registered to phone numbers from mainland China were unable to view at least 79 images that were tested and numerous keyword combinations have been blocked.