Facebook was blocked in China in 2009, its dedication to openness clashing with the Chinese government’s desire to censor and control communication. However, according to a new report in The New York Times, Facebook might be bending over backwards to accommodate Chinese censorship.
Three anonymous current and former Facebook employees were quoted in the report saying that Facebook has quietly developed a censorship software tool that will allow the site to suppress posts in specific geographic areas. According to the report, this was designed to appease the Chinese government so the social network can reenter the country.
For its part, Facebook released a vague statement on the report, neither confirming nor denying the existence of the censorship software.
“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,” a Facebook spokesperson told Fortune. “Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”
Facebook does not plan to suppress posts itself, but would likely offer the software to Chinese third-party partners that could decide what they wanted to do with it.
Of course, it’s important to note that this project may never see the light of day. Still, it’s troubling that Facebook is so willing to sacrifice free speech just to gain a bigger user base.