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Facebook launches "secret" app to dodge the bans in China

Facebook launches

Facebook seems to have snuck an app into China after years of struggling to convince the country's leadership to stop blocking its virtual programs, according to a New York Times report published Friday.

But that's much to the dismay of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who - despite having learned Mandarin and having made several trips there to negotiate - has seen no success in bringing its cache of marquee apps - Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and others - to China, seen as tightly controlled and often censored. Paul Mozur of TheNYT was able to detect the clandestine, global business maneuver by comparing Facebook's Moments app to the one being tested in China. Sources told the New York Times that Facebook played a part in Colorful Balloons' creation, and even gave permission for the app to be released back in May through a separate company called Youge Internet Technology.

It was unclear if China's various internet regulators were aware of the app's existence, the Times said. But by Facebook showing such eagerness, China presumably knows they have the upper hand, allowing it to force wishful, foreign tech companies to capitulate to their demands.

China and its strict censorship laws have banned western internet media and social platforms like Twitter, Google, and especially Facebook, but the latter has recently managed to work its way through the country's "Great Firewall." How?

However, the room number listed in company registration documents could not be found amid a series of shabby, small offices on the building's fourth floor.

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That indicates she likely is associated with the social media giant. In the rest of the world, the company's Moments app connects users through Facebook.

It appears this was far more than a knockoff app, however. Coming just ahead of a key meeting of the Chinese Communist Party this autumn, the secretive release of Colorful Balloons could also undermine trust between the company and the Chinese government.

The risk Facebook is taking with the new app is high.

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