Facebook 'plans Baidu deal'

12 April 2011

BEIJING: Facebook could be planning a new social media platform for Chinese consumers, built in collaboration with search specialists Baidu.

Reports from Sohu.com and Bloomberg suggest that a series of meetings discussing the partnership have been held over recent months.

Mark Zuckerberg and Robin Li - the ceos of the two companies - met last December.

If launched, the new jointly-owned site will not be integrated with Facebook.

This reflects the tough conditions likely to be imposed on Facebook by the Chinese authorities if it wishes to trade in the world's most-populous nation.

In the past, the state has blocked sites such as Twitter and YouTube due to concerns over anti-government messages made by users.

Facebook.com itself is also currently unavailable to Chinese consumers.

Google, the US search giant, faced a nationwide block in March 2010 following a dispute over censorship. Certain politically-sensitive search terms still fail to appear for Chinese users.

An anonymous source told Bloomberg that the US social network - which has around 600 million global subscribers - has been speaking with several potential Chinese partners for the site, not just Baidu.

"The discussions have been exploratory and may not result in an agreement," the source indicated.

In a statement to the news agency made last week, Facebook said: "We are currently studying and learning about China, as part of evaluating any possible approaches that could benefit our users, developers and advertisers."

Data sourced from Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff