Earlier last week, the rumor of Facebook’s comeback to China was spreading fast.
Banned since 2009, the technology giant was apparently trying to gain a foothold into the country with the establishment of an innovation hub. The word spread as screenshots of the subsidiary’s registration in Hangzhou were released on the Internet.
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By Thursday, the filing had vanished from the website of China’s National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System. According to the New York Times approval was withdrawn after the national internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, disagreed with the provincial government’s approval of the subsidiary.
Moreover, all terms related to the operation were censored on Chinese social media.
The country has the media and Internet on a very short leash. Foreign companies strive every day to operate in the region as they face legions of ministries, regulators and local and central authorities. But the Chinese market is a very attractive one as it is the world’s biggest Internet market with over 710 million users as of 2017 (Forbes).
The numerous bans and difficulties foreign companies are experiencing have favored the emergence of a monopolist in the market: WeChat. Indeed, along with Facebook, Twitter is also banned in China while messaging apps such as WhatsApp work intermittently. Apple and Google services are also very restricted.
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The legal status of Facebook’s expansion remains uncertain. Nevertheless, we are a long way from fully removing the ban of the platform even should the innovation hub manage to go through. Speaking of the company’s efforts in China, Mark Zuckerberg said they are “a long time from doing anything”.
2018 has so far been a hard year for the social media giant as the company is facing many other challenges from slower user growth and tanking share price to scandals over user data.