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Illustration by Max Fleishman

Some have left the company over the contentious project.
Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to help create conversation in China—even if it's not the full conversation.

The company has developed software to stop certain posts from appearing in user news feeds in specific geographic areas, the New York Times reports

According to three anonymous current and former Facebook employees, the feature was created to help Facebook break into the Chinese market. The country has blocked internet use of the platform since 2009 due to the government's strict censorship rules.

With the software, Facebook itself would not censor content. Instead, third parties could monitor popular stories and topics and would have full control to decide if those posts should appear in news feeds.

The report comes on the heels of criticism that Facebook helped contribute to the spread of fake news during the recent United States presidential election cycle, which many believed influenced the result of the race.

The interviewed employees said the tool might never be introduced, and the Times reports the software has neither been used nor appears to have been offered to China's authorities. However, several employees who worked on the project reportedly left the company due to the feature's contentious objective.

The employees said the project had also become so popular internally that Zuckerberg spoke about the topic at one of Facebook's weekly Friday question and answer sessions.

A representative for the company told the Times that Facebook hasn't made a decision on its approach into China.

“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Read the full report at the New York Times.

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