MySpace looks to China with caution

Millions of Chinese youngsters are ready and willing to start linking up, but there's a problem - the Chinese government.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

Media magnate Rupert Murduch probably sees China's enormous population as a billion potential MySpace profiles, as he tries to establish his popular social networking site there, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

MySpace already has a foothold in the U.K., Australia and a few other countries, but getting MySpace into China may prove to be a bit more difficult. Many corporations would love to build a presence in China, and the few Internet companies such as Google and Microsoft, have been criticized for overlooking their corporate policies to comply with China's repressive censorship laws.

Speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference, Murdoch admitted that News Corp. would probably face difficulties in trying to establish a social networking site there.

"We have to make MySpace a very Chinese site, which is really why I sent my wife there, because she's Chinese and understands it," Murdoch said.

The most likely scenario for a Chinese MySpace would be to partner with a Chinese company which would run the site and deal with the Chinese government, Murdoch said.

"We'll see that it develops its own character and find [other] ways of collecting revenue than simply advertising," he said.

One of the main issues is censorship. With millions of user-generated MySpace profiles, monitoring and censoring all those users flies in face of what makes social networking powerful. As it stands now, there are Internet companies who censor sites but are not government entities, said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

"There is always going to be user-generated content that crosses the censorship line," said Qiang. "A service like MySpace will generate all sorts of content. ... But how do you monitor those services without a clear legal line? That is what the companies face (whether) it's Google, Yahoo or a Chinese company."
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