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Facebook reportedly created censorship tool for China

New software prevents posts from appearing in users' feeds in specific regions, The New York Times reports.

JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook has been working hard to re-enter the Chinese market and it may have landed on a solution.

The social-networking giant has quietly developed software that will automatically suppress posts from users' feeds in specific regions, the New York Times reported Tuesday. The tool, which has been championed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is intended to help the company gain favor with the Chinese government, current and former Facebook employees told the newspaper.

Facebook reiterated its interest in the Chinese market but didn't directly address whether it had created such a tool.

"We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country. However, we have not made any decision on our approach to China," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform."

China is the world's biggest internet market, with around 700 million users -- double the entire population of the United States. But its government-instituted censorship rules have long kept the country's population from a range of US-based websites, limiting citizens' abilities to share information and opinions on sensitive subjects.

Tech companies have also been stymied by the stringent rules, which require companies to block sensitive information or content inside China. Popular sites and services such as Gmail, Facebook and Twitter have long been blocked in the country.

Like other US internet companies, Facebook complies with foreign governments' requests to block certain content after it's posted, but the new tool takes the practice a step further by preventing posts from appearing in feeds from the beginning, the Times reported. Facebook doesn't intend to use the software itself, the newspaper reported, but rather offer it to a third party for monitoring stories that appear on users' feeds.

Updated, 4:10 p.m. PT: Adds Facebook statement.