Strict censorship from the local government may leave Chinese market out of Facebook’s reach, the U.S.-based social network said in a document referring to its debut on the stock exchange.
“China is a large potential market for Facebook, but users are generally restricted from accessing Facebook from China,” the filing for Facebook’s initial public offering said. “We do not know if we will be able to find an approach to managing content and information that will be acceptable to us and to the Chinese government,” it added.
Despite the difficulties, Facebook continues to “evaluate entering China”. One of the main difficulties is the government’s requirements of censoring critics. Other big Internet names, like YouTube or Twitter, are currently blocked in China for similar reasons.
Several local players are already strong on the Chinese social networking market. Renren, one of them, has a user interface similar to Facebook and reported 137 million users at the end of September.
“Foreign Internet companies still don’t quite understand the Chinese Internet market or its users’ habits,” says a Beijing Facebook user, who continues to use the website through a virtual private network, despite the block from the government. “Even if the companies don’t involve themselves with sensitive topics, it will still be hard for them to succeed.”