While Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has withdrawn its entry into the world’s most populous country, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is undoubtedly doing the opposite. The comparison between the two companies is made timelier by the recent decision of the social media powerhouse to suspend the account of Chinese dissident Liao Yiwu in connection to what the company said is its policy on content depicting nudity.
Some see the move as Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) trying to appease the Chinese government in order to tap this massive and undeniably lucrative market. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL), in contrast, has directly attributed its withdrawal from China to its refusal to be censored.
Chris Matthews of Fortune, however, presents a different lens through which observers can analyze the situation. He wonders whether Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is just taking the more balanced approach in its relationship to governments around the world, something Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has seemingly foregone in the interest of holding on to its principle against censorship.
“Facebook appears to be taking a more balanced view of disputes between the East and West,” Matthews writes.
The Fortune journalist adds that the point of an editorial – published by the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper praising Facebook for its suspension of Liao Yiwu’s account – that the West’s commitment to free speech is not absolute, is “fair”.
He says perhaps Facebook just sees the side of the argument China is presenting. The social media giant may also just be taking into consideration the differences each country, their culture and government policies present to companies while making their decisions.
Matthews also notes that this latest event highlights that people may be talking about different things when talking about “freedom of speech”.
“The freedom to speak is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, but it doesn’t always protect those who want to post words or images (like nudity) that fall outside the barriers of good taste. And it doesn’t always protect folks like Edward Snowden, who disseminate information the U.S. government has deemed classified,” he writes.
Nonetheless, while taking a more balanced approach, it’s quite clear that this difference in how Facebook deals with the Chinese government may also be a move to make it easier for them to launch their services in the country.
Karthik Sarma’s SRS Investment Management owned 5 million Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) shares by the end of September. Also by the end of the 3Q2014, Jean-Marie Eveillard’s First Eagle Investment Management owned 345,235 Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Class A shares.