China Seeks Facebook Stake, Hasn’t Blocked Google+

A source tells Business Insider that China is seeking to buy a substantial stake in Facebook:

This source learned of China’s interest when it approached him to see if he could help put together a stake large enough “to matter.” …

There’s little need for such concern. For one, even a billion dollar stake isn’t a very big stake in Facebook, these days. The company is expected to IPO at a $100 billion valuation. For another, China would be buying non-voting stock and would have no say in Facebok’s operations. And finally, it’s not like shareholders in Facebook have some special privilege that allows them to see what users are doing or saying.

Importantly, sovereign wealth funds are pretty distinct from their governments.

Because it’s a private company, Facebook will have to approve any sale of its stock to China. We imagine it will. It’s been reported that Mark Zuckerberg would like Facebook to move into China. One big reason American firms stumble in China is that the government tends to favor locals when it comes to regulation. One way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to allow the governement to own a stake.

Meanwhile, Foreign Policy’s Passport blog examines mistaken reports that the new, invitation-only Google+ service was blocked in China even before it opened to the public.

Shanghaiist isn’t impressed with the research techniques behind the mistaken reports:

Washington Post, and others, are only citing GFW [Great Firewall, the nickname for China's internet censorship firewall] check-up sites like Great Firewall of China and Ping. To give you an idea of how unreliable those tests are, we just tried Google+ again on both, and got an “OKAY” from Ping and a “fail” from Great Firewall.

Sadly, when it comes to censorship, Western news outlets have something of a track record with overzealous reporting. This spring, the lede of a New York Times piece purported to expose Chinese propaganda agents cutting off phone calls at the mention of the word “protest.” Shanghai-based journalist (and FP contributor) Adam Minter tested the Times’ claims and found them overblown, as did Shanghaiist’s Kenneth Tan. Later that day, Times researcher Jonathan Ansfield, who was involved with the piece, left a damning comment on Minter’s post:

for the record, the contributing reporter’s own tests comport with yours. regrettably his input on the story made little difference.

 

 

See also CDT’s posts on the mistaken Google+ blockage report and the New York Times “protest” phone controversy.