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Can Zuckerberg Leap the Great Firewall of China? 102

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the international-hoodie-of-mystery dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Guardian reports that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is in China and has met with Robin Li, the head of Baidu, as he toured the facility of the biggest search engine in China. Zuckerberg has made no secret of his desire to expand in China, where Facebook has been blocked by the government censors' Great Firewall since 2008. On a recent global map of Facebook users, China appeared as a black spot, though it has a bigger internet population than any country on earth. 'How can you connect the whole world if you leave out a billion people?' says Zuckerberg. China already has two Facebook imitators: Kaixin, with 80 million users, and Renren, with 150 million, but these lack the economic clout and global reach of Zuckerberg's company although they do have the advantages of language and cultural awareness, as well as the protection of the Great Firewall. 'If Facebook wanted to enter China, it would not have to change its function, because netizens here are used to copycats already, but it must, like other international internet companies, obey Chinese laws and regulations,' said Hu Yong, a professor at Beijing University's School of Journalism and Communication."
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Can Zuckerberg Leap the Great Firewall of China?

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  • Not a chance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fussy_radical (1867676) on Monday December 20, 2010 @10:09AM (#34614946)

    Facebook allows way too much communication and freedom. Both are dangerous to their regime.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Given the recent Wikileaks situation, I'm almost tempted to mark this as trollbait...

      More seriously, I recognize your point is valid, but don't go overboard with blanket statements like those.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mysidia (191772)

      Facebook allows way too much communication and freedom. Both are dangerous to their regime.

      With enough money to be made: I am sure FB will find ways of adapting to meet China's requirements or at least reach a compromise, probably involving FB taking definitive actions to assist government spying and government censorship.

      • That was my first thought. I'm sure the Chinese government would LOVE to have Facebook operating in their country, under the right conditions. It could be the most powerful citizen monitoring tool by far, with relatively little political fallout since users voluntarily give up the information.

      • "...probably involving FB taking definitive actions to assist government spying and government censorship."

        While you are probably right to some extent, I think the real issue, at least from the perspective of Chinese leadership, is that they are concerned that their citizens will be connecting to OURS.

        They know they have subversives and they have "methods" of dealing with them--it is the average-Joe they are concerned about. They don't want their citizenry to see the rest of the world through the eyes of ot

        • There is already an effective natural barrier: Language. Just seperating the sites would enforce that further.
    • China is a National Socialist state (aka "corporatism" to use Mussolini's wording).

      Do you think Facebook would be allowed in 1930s Germany, or Italy, or Spain? No way. Likewise the free communication of ideas will never be allowed in modern Natsosh China, as that twitter girl discovered when she copied a Newspaper article that was disallowed by the state. I'm surprised they haven't had book burnings yet, but maybe that will come soon, courtesy of the Minitru.

      • by Moryath (553296)

        Remember the way Facebook treated the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" event.

        The idea that Facebook is a company that will actually try to protect free speech is pure nonsense. They'll bend over to appease the illegitimate Chinese regime in a heartbeat. Good luck having a "human rights for China" page, unless your definition of "human rights" is "throwing anyone who disagrees with the Chinese Communist Party into a work gulag".

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        Facebook would be happily allowed into a fascist state. Especially in return for being allowed to do business, they offered unfettered access of their database of that nation, and other nation's to that country's intelligence services. This is my fear about Zukerberg making a deal with the devil, that US and European data "accidently" gets replicated to PLA servers. Of course, one should never put anything on FB that shouldn't be public, but on the other hand, this data shouldn't be easily available for

        • by mlts (1038732) *

          Meh, misspelled Zuckerberg. My feeling is that FB will be allowed to operate... provided they "cooperate" and let an interest like The9 have a controlling stake, and would mean that FB would have to hand to the PLA the source code of their backend application.

          Great deal for China -- another technology obtained for free, without any IP limitations (patents/copyrights/trademarks). For FB? Maybe it might bring in some money through ads, but is it worth the cost?

          If it were me, I'd say no, however I'm one of

        • Meh, after reading http://time.com/poy [time.com] 's spread on Zuckerberg, (hey, I was on a 5-hour flight, and had first read all the runner-ups and practically all of the other articles), I actually don't feel so badly about him anymore. I still don't really care for FB, but people use it, so that's why I maintain a presence there. But the TIME article helped vet out some of the theory and philosophy behind it, which was more useful than most of the third-hand descriptions I get about Zuckerberg from the various p

      • You misunderstand the nature of information control in authoritarian regimes. There are those which would watch every single word you utter, yes - like NK. But those are hardly practical, and pragmatic dictators know it. It's far easier - and just as efficient - to control only the mass media. And even then you don't just ban it - you let it flow, but keep an eye on it in case you see anything subversive.

        That is, in fact, precisely how Internet works in China today already. Why should Facebook be any differ

    • Re:Not a chance (Score:5, Interesting)

      by OhHellWithIt (756826) * on Monday December 20, 2010 @11:02AM (#34615372) Journal

      Facebook allows way too much communication and freedom. Both are dangerous to their regime.

      I believe the Chinese government would love Facebook: all those people offering up the intimate details of their lives and identifying who their friends and family are, complete with photographs! If I were the Chinese gov't, I'd simply demand Facebook give me access to all of the user data. Malcontents could quickly and easily be dealt with.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If Zuckerberg does that, he is going to hell. No question about it.

      • Or China could pull another "alleged" Gmail stunt and hack their way in and pull a list of Malcontents...

      • by kokojie (915449)
        They already have sites like that, facebook imitators are prospering in China. Facebook is just trying to get a piece of the pie.
      • I believe the Chinese government would love Facebook: all those people offering up the intimate details

        Perhaps what they'll like most is to get access to some data that is *not* from Chinese citizens. Anyway I don't see how things with China and the West will end well, with both having contradicting rigged rules of the same rigged game, and mountains of weapons and no good intentions. Most companies, and slowly countries, just end up as controlled suppliers of skills, technology, a few parts, all the customers, and a lot of money. "Open markets" were always a rigged game, and just became a fool's game whe

      • They don't need Facebook for this. As the summary noted, Kaixin and Renren (Xiaonei) are well entrenched. I and many friends have been served warning and had status updates/links/journals deleted by the censors, with a nice PM to let us know to to repost it.

        Chinese "copycats" of facebook are in full compliance. Facebook would need to comply just as well, if not more, to try to unseat them. If it is less cooperative than the Chinese companies, they will be of little value to the censors.

    • It will be interesting to see, what will be asked of them to do for their app to be brought down to a version that china will accept.

  • Who the hell? (Score:5, Informative)

    by richy freeway (623503) * on Monday December 20, 2010 @10:09AM (#34614956)
    Mark ZuckeNberg?? How the hell did so many spelling mistakes slip through the net?
    • While we're at it, why isn't "internet" capitalized? "Internet" is a proper noun, thus is capitalized. Even my browser is smart enough to stick a wavy red line underneath it if I spell it with a lowercase 'i'.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Probably because it's from the Guardian / more and more publications outside of N. America use such spelling now (also because many languages have more lax guidelines for capitalization... (*))

        Not without some merit - the word is now perceived as being in the same category as television or telephone, is becoming a generic term ((*) ...or - many countries became really connected only when viewing the network in generic way already common); Phonograph was written like I just did. Plus - initially "internet" w

      • sucky browser, mate!

    • by Hojima (1228978)

      We at Glorious Republic of China news take grammer very serios.

    • Personally, I prefer to spell his name starting with a "F"

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 20, 2010 @10:10AM (#34614960) Journal

    "How can you connect the whole world if you leave out a billion people?"

    China's response will probably be something along the lines of "How can you modify Facebook so that we are not only able to censor it but violators are automatically reported to a government agency?" Time and time again it's been demonstrated in China: if you can play ball, you're in.

    The quote following the above is pretty indicative of what Zuckerberg fails to understand:

    "Our theory is that if we can show that we as a western company can succeed in a place where no other country has, then we can start to figure out the right partnerships we would need to succeed in China on our terms."

    So naive. It's that simple, huh? You weren't paying attention when Google went in, made friends with scholars and scientists and was promptly put in their place when the government tired of their novelty?

    You're the copycat now, Mark. You are going to go into China thinking that you're are going to turn the tide and you're going to be met with the same immovable wall anyone who has sought to change the PRC has faced. But what you are going to have to do is look at how the Facebook copycats have served up private data and fingering individuals for putting the wrong number in their status update. And you're pretty much going to be told what to do and either you're going to do it or you're going to be back at square one. You're an outsider coming into China so you might as well drop the whole "This is how it's going to change" attitude. You're just going to be embarrassed when you find out that any deviation to their laws and customs puts your right to host a website at risk in their country.

    "A western company can succeed in a place where no other country has?" So what are you going to do different? Congratulations, you made friends with Baidu. All that means is now someone can tell you the optimal way to achieve vertical height when the CCP screams "JUMP!"

    My money is on you going in there thinking you're going to relax censorship only to find out that you're going to be one of their ultimate tools to enforce it. And then there's going to be this massive pile of money on the table and you can either take that and expand in China by wiping your ass with morals and ethics or you can walk away. I bet you get on your knees and bark like a dog while spinning it as a 'Western company succeeding!' And if you want the most money, that's exactly what you should do!

    • by 228e2 (934443)
      I disagree with the sentiment that Zuck will balk under the money pressure. Well, THAT kind of money pressure.

      Hate him, love him, or fall somewhere in the middle, I really cant argue that he has made many financial missteps. And if wants to open his pocketbook to 1.7 billion more people, conceding a few things may not be the worst of ideas. Its not like Google couldnt have made it work, they just wouldnt play by the host country's rules. How is that being put in their place? And how is it different when
    • by Tolkien (664315)
      You know the story of how he cheated the two Harvard guys by working on Facebook instead of their HarvardConnect site, most probably stealing plenty of ideas in the process. Everyone who knows that story already knows he has no morals or ethics. This is just a PR stunt to publicly justify his next expensive ass-wiping.
      • I agree. Zuckerberg is the douchey greedhead we all knew back in our IT/CompSci college courses, who seemed to be a wannabe-web-boomer late to the party, who had sweet talk that could sell a fridge to an Eskimo but barely struggled through the coursework and rode on everyone else's coattails in group projects. Normally he'd now be working in the area of IT that requires high sleaze and low technical skill - sales.

        But the difference here is that Zuckerberg's little project was picked up by the global fad cyc

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Kinda funny really. Facebook too is all about intrusion into your personal life. The big difference is that China does it for political control while Facebook does it for money. Imagine if they fully team up. Ouch.

    P.S. The opposite of both China and Facebook? The Metagovernment [metagovernment.org] of course.

  • All he needs to do is enforce censorship and turn over all private data to the government.
    • Yes. My question is WHOSE private data. The data from chineese citizens or ALL data?

  • Changed his name, did he?
  • Maybe they'll figure out like the CIA that tracking the wants of every citizen then throwing in things like facial recognition is a good thing, for government.
  • Too late . . . (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 228e2 (934443) on Monday December 20, 2010 @10:20AM (#34615042)
    I know scores of people in China that use Facebook on a daily basis . . . .
    • And I know hundreds who don't. Highly Western-oriented users will use Facebook. I have about ~400 Chinese friends on Renren/Xiaonei who are all students studying in the US, at my university (or close by). The ones who speak English, look for foreign boyfriends/girlfriends, and plan to stay in America use Facebook.

      Those are the “scores" (maybe 50 or so). The other 350? They're in the US, but even if they have a FB account, they use Chinese sites almost exclusively. They, and the millions of Chin

  • He changed his name to Zuckenberg to fool the Chinese censors who were triggering the firewall based on his name. PS: Zuckerberg means "suger mountain" in German. Zuckenberg means "twitch mountain", a much cooler name.
    • Sounds way more evil too. Zuckerberg? You picture a pasty little white guy anyone could take in a fight (which is exactly right). Zuckenberg? Now you picture a big bald white guy with a monocle and an evil grin, slowly petting his persian cat, while overlooking his doomsday device factory and chuckling to himself.

  • doesn't sound much fun. Either you are going to be very boring, or you will always be testing the limits of an authoritarian regime. Neither of which can last for very long.

    It's like wearing an alcohol detector bracelet at a beer garden during Oktoberfest.
    • China is not North Korea, it is not a totalitarian state. Authoritarian? Yes, but those two words are not synonymous.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why is Zuckerberg being worshipped as the saviour and freedom fighter for the Internet and all its denizens?

    Sorry, I don't mean to troll, but even looking at this article's title, it seems clear that it's expected that only Zuckerberg is able to break down the walls and barriers into China, and destroy a government which opposes the Western World's points of view and politics, and instead fill China was happy rainbow bunnies and unicorns that happily cooperate with people with wildly differing points of vie

    • BECUZ HE MAED FACEBOOK AND FACEBOOK IS TEH BEST THING EVAR AMIRITE? - Average Joe

      (It's nice that I can disable ads, but I'd rather be able to override the caps filter)

  • by gauauu (649169) on Monday December 20, 2010 @11:06AM (#34615408)

    I used to live in China, so I personally know quite a few Chinese people. And loads of them have facebook accounts (and use them regularly) And these aren't people necessarily tech-savvy enough to work around the firewall with proxies, etc...they just use facebook.

    So, while I doubt this story is completely wrong or made up, I don't understand. Do they block it in some places and not others? Do I just know a few weird outliers that somehow managed to view it despite it being blocked? Is there something more to the story? I don't get it.

    • And loads of them have facebook accounts (and use them regularly)

      Real facebook accounts, or accounts with some Chinese facebook look-alike?

      • by gauauu (649169)

        Real facebook accounts, or accounts with some Chinese facebook look-alike?

        Real. As in, they are my friends on facebook now, which is how we stay in touch.

    • by kikito (971480)

      I've not lived in China, but I traveled a lot through it last summer, for one month, moving from place to place every two days on average.

      I can confirm first hand that the same websites that were unavailable in some regions were completely open (and even fast) on others. It seemed completely random - on big cities it changed from district to district.

      Interestingly enough, I found less restrictions in rural areas (when there was any connectivity at all, it wasn't very firewalled).

    • by fliptout (9217)

      Where in China did you live? If you were teaching English or doing, ahem, missionary work in the boondocks, you might not have seen much censorship.

      Facebook is blocked in the places I lived/visited recently. What is blocked seems to vary by region as others here have noted. There might even be variation neighborhood to neighborhood within the larger cities.

      As to your friends on FB:
      1. Software to get around the firewall is very common. It's widely sold in IT shops.
      2. I know some companies in China pay of

    • by tokul (682258)

      Do they block it in some places and not others?

      Chinese don't have to block it. They need to implement alternative version first. Then they can block the original.

    • by wall0645 (1665631)
      When I was on vacation in Beijing, the computers in the hostel I stayed at had access to facebook. This was in December 2008.
  • But I thought only Nixon could go to China
  • Then don't don't write the article. And don't post it.

    Furthermore, "two Facebook imitators"!? I'm sorry, have you completely forgotten MySpace and Friendster? Do you consider Wolfenstein a "Doom-clone"?
    I've got to chaulk this one up to the cash cult. Someone makes a buck and so they must be a god.
    • Furthermore, "two Facebook imitators"!? I'm sorry, have you completely forgotten MySpace and Friendster? Do you consider Wolfenstein a "Doom-clone"?

      Try visiting one of the imitators mentioned in the summary and see if you can figure out what makes “Facebook imitators” different from MySpace and Friendster.

      Hint: they’re shamelessly copied off Facebook, with different logos.

      • ...ah. Well I didn't do that. I guess I'll take your expert opinion on cloning. I think I might need a firefox extension that will slap me whenever I tack on kneejerk reactions like that.
    • by kikito (971480)

      "Someone makes a buck and so they must be a god."

      Well maybe not a god, but someone to imitate - if you are into buck making.

  • As far as I know, facebook wasn't banned until the 2008 Tibet riot, when facebook was used to rally people to anti-government demonstrations. As said in the summary, a facebook clone, Renren, is extremely popular in China with 150 million users, among other social networking sites such as dating-oriented ones. It has pretty much all the fancy features of facebook plus its own innovations, but it's NOT censored, because i) Most of its users are Chinese. What Chinese government really fears is the connection
  • Zuckerburg: Mr. Jintao, tear down that wall! (And sign up for my ridiculously useless and exploitative web service!)
  • by formfeed (703859) on Monday December 20, 2010 @12:06PM (#34616014)
    Zuckerberg wants to get into the Chinese market, but he also wants more cooperation with search engines. Through a cooperation with F*c*book, Baidu could expand outside of China. Double win for Zuckerberg, he always had problems with "don't be evil".
    • As much as Baidu might like to expand, they're a Chinese language search engine. They don't have a "Baidu English". They're like Yandex or Naver: they do the domestic market, and they do it very well. I'm curious as to what Baidu wants that Xiaonei/Renren and Kaixin aren't giving them.

  • but he should be very aware of the dogs once he's at the other side.
  • again, I will have to thoroughly second this article [theonion.com]:

    2010 was a landmark year for Zuckerberg: He watched his net worth surpass that of Steve Jobs and of Rupert Murdoch, while also expanding his online empire to include geo-location services, high-res photo-sharing, and enhanced personalization features, all of which just proved that the redheaded little dickface has really got our number and will always have us lining up and begging for more. Goddammit.

    • by JSTACAT (1184731)

      There has never been such a powerful surveillance tool in the history of the world. 500 hundred million people -voluntarily- submitting every detail of their lives to the FBi machine.

      That is why a feckless fellow like zuckerberg can do what he is doing.
      Those billions? Pure sentiment, and, the poor fellow doesn't seem to know that he's as disposable as a few sheets of charmin.
      On FBi ? you might as well cc the FBI all your communications and save the effort of logging in.
      [trollface.jp

  • Given my experience with having accounts on Facebook deleted without any reason being given and the latest being a request for and I quote here...

    >>>
    We apologize, but the only way we will be able to verify ownership of this account is if you reply to this email with an attachment of scanned, government-issued photo identification confirming your full name and date of birth. If you do not have access to a scanner, a digital image of your photo ID will be accepted as well. Rest assured that we will p

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