Facebook Is Worried About 'Too Much Free Speech'

Facebook is considering censoring content in some countries because it is "uncomfortable" offering excessive amounts of freedom to some people. The next time you start sympathize with a beaten or jailed protester, try imagining how that violence makes Facebook feel.

As the social network considers expanding into China and begins talks with Chinese "partners"—tentacles of the country's authoritarian government, in other words—its lobbyist Adam Conner has told the Wall Street Journal, "Maybe we will block content in some countries, but not others... We are occasionally held in uncomfortable positions because now we're allowing too much, maybe, free speech in countries that haven't experienced it before."

Facebook's sudden distaste for uncomfortable self-expression seems crafted to placate China's very nervous rulers, who in recent weeks have started jailing lawyers and dissidents, hoping to forestall any uprisings of the sort that, with some help of Facebook's servers, have toppled dictators in Egypt and Tunisia.

So while Google's Russian emigre co-founder has ended his company's collaboration with Chinese censorship, Facebook has refused to participate in a Senate hearing on "global internet freedom" and is now publicly talking about the perils of international free speech. Maybe it's time for the social network to adopt a new corporate slogan. Something like Google's "don't be evil," except the opposite.

[Photo of an Egyptian protester thanking Facebook in February 2011, via Witness.org/Flickr]