Tom Cotton slams Facebook's reported China censorship tool

Tom Cotton slams Facebook's reported China censorship tool

Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ark.) on Wednesday criticized Facebook’s reported development of a tool to enable censorship in China.

“That Facebook has been engineering a way to accommodate Communist China's censorship is deeply disturbing,” the Arkansas senator said. “If Facebook moves forward with this new feature and bends to Beijing's will, it would normalize complicity in oppression for other technology companies and embolden other authoritarian regimes.”

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According to a New York Times report, Facebook developed software to keep certain posts from appearing in users’ feeds in certain geographic locations. The tool was created, the Times reported, is to help Facebook enter the Chinese market, where it is currently banned. 

Facebook reportedly does not intend to use the tool itself but would instead offer it to a third party, like a Chinese company that could monitor users and decide which posts to allow on the platform.

Despite the tool's reported development, Facebook says it hasn't decided how to approach a relationship with China.

“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country," a Facebook Spokesperson told The Hill. "However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China. Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”

Some Facebook employees have left the company as part of the backlash over the tool’s development, according to reports. 

“The promise of technology lies in creating a future that is freer,” Cotton’s statement read. “But if Facebook shamefully rationalizes censorship in pursuit of short-term profit, it will be placing its fortunes in a future that is more closed, less prosperous, and much darker.”

China’s censorship policies have put other American tech companies it in precarious positions.

Google shut down its Chinese search option in 2011 over censorship issues and Twitter is still banned in the country.