HONG KONG: The founder of global social networking giant Facebook is so determined to make his company a success in China he’s even learning the language.
Facebook has over 500 million users worldwide but has been restricted in China since July 2009 after the deadly ethnic unrest in the restive Xinjiang region.
In a long question and answer session with an audience at Stanford University, Mark Zuckerberg explained how Facebook is only “not winning or going to win” in four countries: China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
“We kind of carved off China and said “Okay this one is extremely complex and has its own dynamics,” he told the audience at the Y Combinator start up school on Saturday.
“In China I think the values are so different from what we have in the US so, before we do anything there, I’m personally spending a lot of time studying it and figuring out what I think the right thing to do is.
“It’s kind of a personal challenge this year, I’m taking an hour a day and I’m learning Chinese. I’m trying to understand the language, the culture, the mind set — it’s just such an important part of the world.
“How can you connect the whole world if you leave out a billion-six people?” China is the most populous nation on the planet, with an official tally of 1.3 billion — 420 million are active online.
On the question of China’s openness, Zuckerberg said the company respects local laws and cultural differences, explaining how Nazi content is blocked in Germany because it is illegal there — but not blocked outside Germany.
And when a user created an “everybody draw Mohammed day” group on the website, Facebook eventually blocked it — but only in Pakistan, as images of the prophet are against the law.
This did not make everybody happy.
“Someone in Pakistan right now is trying to get me sentenced to death,” he said, to ripples of laughter. “No joke, well maybe kind of a joke. I don’t think it’s that funny.” The site’s users spend a total of about 500 billion minutes on the site per month, the company reported separately at the weekend. But its founder doesn’t see the site’s role as promoting the United States.
“I don’t want Facebook to be an American company obviously, we are in America but I don’t want it to be this company that just spreads American values all across the world,” Zuckerberg added.
Facebook’s origin is now a hit Hollywood movie, “The Social Network”, which critics say could be destined for glory at the Oscars.
Zuckerberg says the film got random details right, such as some of his clothes, but key details were wrong. The movie claims he set up Facebook after he was dumped by a girl, but he still has the same pre-Facebook girlfriend, he said.
He concluded the the film makers “can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things.” – AFP
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