What happened: Facebook has followed up on earlier statements about the possibility of returning to China with a written response addressed to the US Senate intelligence committee. The letter says that “no decisions have been made” over what conditions would make a return possible. However, human rights – including concerns over privacy and free expression – would be “carefully considered” in any such decision. The careful statements followed Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s testimony before senators this past September. At the time, Sandberg said that the company would “only operate in a country where we can do so in keeping with our values.”
Why it’s important: Facebook’s careful statement comes after an uproar, both internal and external, over Google’s plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China. The social media giant likely hopes to avoid the same fate, especially after revelations over its loose data-privacy rules and role in polarizing US politics over the last year. Although it’s been blocked in China since 2009, however, Facebook still has China staff selling ads to companies that wish to market themselves abroad. Last August, the company also quietly put out a photo-sharing app in the China market called “Colourful Balloons,” which fell flat soon after release.