Home Has Facebook Disappeared 40% of Its Chinese Users?

Has Facebook Disappeared 40% of Its Chinese Users?

On April 5th, two days after the arrest of artist and architect Ai Weiwei, 250,000 Facebook users disappeared, according to Shanghaist. Citing data from SocialBakers, a Facebook metrics site, they discovered not a tapering off, as of loss of interest, but a sudden, instantaneous drop-off.

Two things are contemporary with this unexplained decline: the arrest of Ai Weiwei amid an overall crackdown on dissidence and dissidents, and Facebook’s negotiations to create a Chinese social network with search giant Baidu.

Facebook has an execrable records as regards free speech. In particular, they have consistently failed to distinguish between pseudonymous use for criminal or mischevous purposes and pseudonymous use for the sake of preserve life and liberty. In March, they shut down the Facebook page of Chinese dissident Michael Anti for using a pseudonym (while allowing one for the founder’s dog). Last year, they allowed troll-groups to force the shutdowns of pages whose users were insufficiently Islamist. In 2008, they allegedly provided Moroccan police with the identify of a user who created a fake profile of a prince.

Could Facebook have shut down these pages as a sweetener for the Chinese government, who controls all joint ventures in that country? If so, have they used, as an excuse, the terms of service condition that forbids pseudonyms?

Some commenters on the Shanghaist post don’t feel confident regarding SocialBaker’s numbers, one estimating a +/-300,000 and another describing a similar 60,000 drop-off in the past. We have written to both Facebook and SocialBaker asking for comments and will update should we get any.

Graph via SocialBakers | other source: Foreign Policy

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