Chinese Netizens S.I.C.K. with Desire for Facebook

Move aside you B.R.I.C.s and P.I.I.G.s, Chinese netizens are chattering about S.I.C.K., or Syria, Iran, China, and (North) Korea, the four countries in the world where Facebook is restricted. These four countries were called out by name in Facebook’s preliminary prospectus recently filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as places where “access to Facebook has been or is currently restricted in whole or in part.”

@金融界人贩子 minted the acronym on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter: “Lots of people are talking about the four countries blocking Facebook that were mentioned in its prospectus: China, Iran, Syria and North Korea… The right order should be Syria, Iran, China and (North) Korea…short for ‘SICK.’ They are indeed the legendary Sick Four. Someone should tell MaZa [Mark Zuckerberg].”

Netizens responded to the less than illustrious company China finds itself in with a mix of frustration and resignation. @大熊走着_Yishuo said it felt like an “optical illusion” watching a Chinese television program about the impending Facebook IPO while “getting a 404 [error message] when you input Facebook on your keyboard.” @天下小风 tweeted “Tragedy. Only thing to do is climb the wall [circumvent government controls].” @风中的枫 opined that “these countries are definitely very sick.” One netizen highlighted the troubled state of the other three countries on the list: “Syria is a mess, [the regime] may be done; Iran may soon be toast; guessing North Korea’s time will soon be up as well.” @芜湖考拉 quipped, “Just hope [these countries] don’t go from SICK to DEAD.”

Facebook probably wishes that these countries get off the S.I.C.K. list soon, particularly China with its over 500 million Internet users.  The Wall Street Journal has reported that Facebook said in its preliminary prospectus that it continues to “evaluate entering China” and that “China is a large potential market for Facebook” although China has “substantial legal and regulatory complexities” that have prevented Facebook’s entry to date. With China’s draconian restrictions on Internet freedom, these “complexities” are no laughing matter. It is not without reason that a popular transliteration of “Facebook” in Chinese is “Feisibuke” (非死不可) or “will definitely die.”

Facebook’s yearning gaze across the Pacific seems to be met by many Chinese netizens who also pine for the social network. @依然-happy tweeted, “I just hope China can quickly become like the rest of the world and let us also experience such a good platform!” @麦萌大叔 said “How many Chinese think QQ is the world’s most popular network?  Not being able to use Facebook in the mainland is a symptom of the lack of democracy and freedom.” @嘀咕大仙 warned, “Facebook, come to China…otherwise Sina [a large Chinese social media company that owns Sina Weibo] will monopolize the market.” @听见声音的光 wondered aloud, “If [Facebook].cn opened up, would anyone still use Sina Weibo?”

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