China buying piece of Facebook: To worry or not to worry

China Facebook

An anonymous source “at a fund that buys stock from Facebook employees” told BusinessInsider that China wants to buy a considerable amount of Facebook. How much exactly? Enough “to matter.” Other rumors say that two independent wealth funds are trying to buy $1.2 billion worth of Facebook stock, and one of them also happens to be from China.

There’s been plenty of back and forth about whether or not this matters, what China’s motivations for the proposed investment are, and what the consequences for Facebook users could be. But it has become obvious that Facebook is at the very least interested in what to do with China. Mark Zuckerberg famously posed the question about whether you could connect the world without including its largest country, and there have been rumors about his company meeting with executives from Baidu, China’s largest search engine.

Given Facebook’s reach and magnitude and China’s tightly-wound censorship policies, there’s bound to be some discourse about a potential partnership. Here are some of the concerns the rumors are inspiring, as well as the reality of the speculated investment.

The concerns

Since Google’s well-documented struggles with China and the more recent alleged Gmail hacks, there has been some suspicion attached to the country and its Internet game, to say the least. Couple this with the apparent tension regarding the Facebook Revolutions and how they have even minimally affected the country, and you can guess how tightly controlled social media is there.

This has prompted some concern over the idea China that could own a considerable piece of Facebook. Given the Chinese governments’ concern about how influential social media can be, it could use this ownership to try and control its citizens. Would this affect US users? It seems unlikely. Earlier this year, we heard about the possibility of a Chinese version of Facebook, which would look and act like Facebook as we know it, but would be censored by the Chinese authorities. A warning would notify outside users that connecting with Facebook China users means their information and interactions also fall under the country’s censorship policy.

The reality

Are these concerns warranted? Not entirely. Hearing “Chinese censorship” attached to the idea of something so integrated to our digital lives as Facebook mostly just sounds scary. Thanks to the Gmail hacking-bit, there’s a sensitive trigger that goes off. But there are a few reasons it might not need to. First of all, since Facebook is still a private company, investors can only buy non-voting stock so affecting the site’s infrastructure would be tricky.

If you want to get extremely anxious about it, you could reason that Facebook is so desperate for China’s hoard of potential users that it would strike some compromise where it would collaborate with the country’s restrictions, possibly even allow it to check on any dissident information coming from outside China – but we’re pretty sure that sort of talk is being circulated by conspiracy theorists alone. Non-voting shareholders don’t have access to Facebook’s user database, and China would have to invest far more than it is rumored to if it wanted significant influence over Facebook once it files IPO.

The real problem for Facebook in all this wouldn’t be losing control, it would be avoiding a storm of negative publicity. Allowing China to invest and possibly creating a censored version of the site would undoubtedly cause privacy advocates to cry foul, and it could find itself in a situation reminiscent to Google’s own struggles with the country.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Business

Apple loses battle to use Intel modems in Germany in latest clash with Qualcomm

Apple is following the Federal Trade Commission's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Computing

Blockchain does way more than power Bitcoin. Here's how it works

What is a blockchain? It was once merely an academic idea and today it's the backbone of the cryptographic industry, helping to send billions of dollars worth of digital assets all over the world.
Mobile

The Moto G4 Plus is finally getting the update to Android Oreo

We've reached out to every major Android hardware manufacturer and asked them when they will update their devices to the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, Android 8.0 Oreo.
Home Theater

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is the epic sound revolution you didn’t know you needed

After Sony’s utterly bizarre press conference, I almost missed what was perhaps the most impactful sonic experience at the show. Luckily, I went back to Sony’s booth on the last day of the show, only to have my mind blown.
Mobile

AT&T jumps the gun with deliberately misleading 5GE launch

As excitement about 5G networks continues to build, AT&T jumps the gun with a ridiculous and deliberate attempt to deceive the public with 5G Evolution – a speed bump that’s based on improvements to 4G tech.
Features

Netflix’s latest price increase heralds the end of streaming’s golden age

Netflix’s recent price rise is just the latest in a string of signs that streaming’s golden age is nearly over. As more services enter the fray, content will be further partitioned, signaling the end of streaming’s good old days.
Features

Netflix’s rate hike is a good thing. Wait, wait, hear us out

Upset at Netflix for raising its rates? We don't blame you. Nobody likes to pay more for anything -- even if they love that thing. But you really should be thanking the streaming entertainment giant. The hike in prices is a necessary and…
Mobile

Bezel-less phones are terrible for typing on, and it’s only going to get worse

Bezel-less smartphone screens look great, and foldable smartphones are an exciting part of the mobile future; but we don't like where the typing experience is heading because of these two trends.
Gaming

Blizzard's dismal updates to 'Diablo 3' make 'Path of Exile' the better option

'Diablo 3' season 16, the 'Season of Grandeur,' is live. It attempts to shake up the stale meta-game with a minor tweak, but it falls far short of what fans of the franchise want. Better games like 'Path of Exile' are eating Blizzard's…
Wearables

A wearable may save your life, thanks to A.I. and big data. Here’s how

Wearables are morphing from devices that send you smartphone notifications and track your fitness into gadgets that can monitor your health -- and maybe even save your life.
Gaming

'Wargroove' is a delightful tactics game that lets you recruit cute armored pups

Wargroove is a fantastical Advance Wars successor with beautiful pixelated visuals and rewarding grid-based combat. In addition to a meaty campaign, Wargroove has an intuitive map editor that lets you create robust campaigns of your own.
Smart Home

Will everything from lamps to fridges be spying on me? Yes, and I’m creeped out

With the debut of Panasonic’s HomeHawk lamp with built-in video camera, should we be concerned that everything -- from couches to dishwashers -- could soon be spying on us? Here’s why the answer to that question is yes.
Computing

Debunking Dark Mode: Here’s why it won’t improve your laptop’s battery life

Dark Mode is known to improve battery life for certain devices, like a smartphone with an OLED screen. Does that apply to laptops, as well? To find out we tested two laptops, one running Windows and one running MacOS.