Home Government Tech Policy Facebook attempts to enter China through the back door

Facebook attempts to enter China through the back door

Facebook is attempting to quietly worm its way into China with the release of a photo-sharing app named Colorful Balloons through a local company.

The app, which shares the look, function and feel of the social media giant's Moments app, does not provide any hint that it is associated with Facebook, the New York Times reported.

Facebook has been blocked in China since 2009 and its photo-sharing app, Instagram, has been banned since 2014. WhatsApp was partially blocked in July.

The company has been trying to woo the authorities there for some time, with its founder Mark Zuckerberg having met Chinese President Xi Jinping and paid a number of visits to the country. Zuckerberg also made a much-publicised run through Tiananmen Square on a smog-filled day.

{laodposition sam08}Quoting a post in Apple's app store, the NYT report said Colorful Balloons was released in China by a company named Youge Internet Technology that was registered to an address in eastern Beijing. However the number of the premises listed could not be found in buildings at the address.

While the Moments app connects users through Facebook, Colorful Balloons links users through WeChat, the largest social network in China.

Facebook is not the only big American company to face issues in China. For years, media mogul Rupert Murdoch tried to establish a foothold there but finally gave up. 

Search engine giant Google shut down its Chinese search engine in 2010 after it was subjected to a cyber attack from within the country. Investigations claimed that a number of Chinese human-rights activists had had their Gmail attacks broken into.

And while Apple has recently started making moves to cement its presence in China it has had to fall in line with the Chinese government's wishes: it is building a new data centre there to comply with laws that Chinese data should be stored within the country.

More recently, Apple had to remove VPN apps from its app store, following a Chinese government crackdown on such apps.

Microsoft has also had to bow to Chinese government dictates to enter the public sector marker there, releasing a version called Windows 10 China Government Edition which had been vetted by the government.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.