Facebook Requests Employees Cancel Travel to China over Coronavirus Fears

Facebook's new mission outlined by Mark Zuckerberg could be a major shift to privacy for the embattled social network, or, as one analyst said, a "smokescreen"
JOSH EDELSON/AFP

A recent report claims that Facebook executives have requested that employees with plans to travel to mainland China cancel any non-essential trips over fear of the spread of the coronavirus.

Reuters reports that tech giant Facebook has requested that employees suspend any non-essential travel to mainland China following the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the are of Wuhan. The company also requested that any workers who have recently traveled to China to work from home for the foreseeable future.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have taken steps to protect the health and safety of our employees,” a company spokesman told Reuters.

According to MyVisaJobs.com, 1,680 of the foreign H-1B workers at Facebook who applied for a green card this year are of Chinese nationality, a further 1,113 are from India, 271 are from Canada, and 81 are from Taiwan. Potentially thousands of other Facebook employees and contractors have roots in China and could plan to travel there.

Breitbart News reported in January that Facebook is establishing a new engineering team in Singapore as the firm attempts to focus on the lucrative China advertising business. The company continues to attempt to gain a foothold in the Chinese market despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s criticism of China which blocks Facebook in the country.

Facebook’s Asia-Pacific headquarters works on developing ad-buying tools for Chinese customers who have to work around China’s restrictive Internet rules known as the “great firewall.” One individual with knowledge of the situation stated that the move is Facebook’s first significant attempt to develop regionally localized advertising tools outside of its headquarters in Silicon Valley.

Facebook stated that the new team has an “Asia-first” mission which consists of both product and “business integrity” sub-teams. A spokesperson stated that the team would serve “Asia as well as our global advertisers.” Facebook sells over $5 billion of advertising a year to Chinese businesses and government agencies which are attempting to spread their messages outside of China. This makes China Facebook’s highest revenue-generating country for advertising outside of the United States, bringing in $24.1 billion in advertising sales in 2018. As a result, restricting travel to China could have long-lasting effects on the firm.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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