Mark Zuckerberg wants the entire world using Facebook, but he'll never achieve that as long as the 1.4 billion-strong population of China is blocked from accessing the social network. And now it has become apparent how far Zuckerberg is willing to bend in an attempt to unlock access to China.
Three current and former Facebook employees have confirmed to The New York Times that a software tool exists allowing the social network to be censored. The software was not created for use by Facebook employees, though. Instead, Facebook would allow a third-party to use it in order to monitor and censor the posts of users on a per region basis.
In the case of China, the tool would most likely be controlled by a Chinese company the government tasked with monitoring the social network. Of course, that would only happen if Facebook was allowed to operate inside the Great Firewall.
For now, the censorship tool remains an internal project that has yet to be deployed. Apparently developers working at Facebook can see the project on the company's servers, but nobody has used it yet. The individuals who talked to the Times also claim Zuckerberg defends its existence if challenged.
When recently asked about the tool during one of the company's internal Friday questions-and-answers sessions, Zuckerberg said, "It's better for Facebook to be a part of enabling conversation, even if it's not yet the full conversation."
A Facebook spokesperson responded to a request from the Time for comment by stating, "We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country."
Zuckerberg wants Facebook in China. This has been made clear by his multiple visits to the country, his meeting with China's Censorship Chief, as well as his ongoing quest to learn Mandarin. So far, they have failed to work, but China must appreciate the effort and at least look on him kindly.
As with most things in China, though, control is key. If Zuckerberg offers the Chinese government (complete) control, then Facebook could see the gates to those 1.4 billion people open.