Clashing Values Could Trip Facebook as it Tiptoes Toward China

The San Jose Mercury News looks at the many hurdles facing Facebook as it approaches the China market, including competition from local companies which were willing to gather to sing revolutionary songs to commemorate the anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party:

Former Silicon Valley technologist Robin Li, co-founder of Baidu, China’s most popular search engine, reportedly proclaimed, “Socialism with Chinese characteristics drives the development of the Chinese Internet.” Some of the attendees at the Shanghai event, which featured a lecture on the party’s history and was sponsored by the government agency that regulates online content, posed uncomfortably before cameras, according to news reports.

The June 8 gathering underscores why “foreign companies are disadvantaged in China,” said Bill Bishop, a Beijing-based independent analyst who follows China’s Internet market. “It was a picture-tells-a-thousand-words moment.”

[...] Internet companies operating in China are forced to be a part of the country’s censorship apparatus, said Rebecca MacKinnon, an expert on Chinese censorship.

“This is part of the China conundrum,” she said. “The government requires companies to police and censor most of the Internet for it. I find it hard to see exactly how (Facebook) would organize their business in China in such a way that would insulate them from these problems that nobody else has managed to avoid.”