Facebook anonymously launched a new photo-sharing app in China with a view to making inroads in the world's most populous country. China's ruling Communist Party controls internet traffic across the country's borders and tries to keep the public from seeing thousands of websites including Facebook.
The app, called Colorful Balloons, was launched in China earlier this year and does not carry Facebook's name. Facebook confirmed Saturday that it launched the app.
The social media company's connection to the app was first reported Friday by The New York Times, which said it was released in China through a separate local company called Youge Internet Technology.The international daily describes the rollout as “unprecedented” and said that Facebook is attempting to determine “how Chinese users digitally share information with their friends or interact with their favorite social media platforms.” The launch of the app comes as China is cracking down on technology that allows web surfers to evade Beijing's online censorship.
China banned Facebook in July 2009, and partially blocked WhatsApp in July. Last month, users of Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service, which normally operates freely in China, were no longer able to send images without using a virtual private network. That came amid official efforts to suppress mention of the death of Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate.
China's biggest internet service provider, China Telecom Ltd., sent a letter to corporate customers last month saying that VPNs, which create encrypted links between computers and can be used to see sites blocked by Beijing's web filters, would be permitted only to connect to a company's headquarters abroad. The move could block access to news, social media or business services that are obscured by China's "Great Firewall." Ever since then Zuckerberg has been working to find a way to get the social network reintroduced into the country.
Chinese authorities have long blocked Facebook, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, arguing that foreign social media services operating beyond their control pose a threat to national security.
(With inputs from AP)