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Updated with comment from Twitter and more about Chen's background
China represents such an interesting case for so many social media companies. Most of them are blocked in the country, but those networks still manage to make money off the country through advertising.
Facebook, for example, has cited it as one of the company's biggest ad markets. Twitter too has been courting Chinese companies for ads, despite being banned there since 2009.
Now it may be ramping up those efforts, as it has hired Kathy Chen as its first Managing Director for China, Jack Dorsey announced in a Tweet on Thursday.
A big welcome to Twitter, @KathyChen2016! She joins us as our MD for China!— Jack (@jack) April 15, 2016
Based on her Twitter, it looks as though Chen is based in Hong Kong. She outlined some of her responsibilities in a Tweet and in a short video, in which she said she would "fine more ways to create value for our advertisers, enterprisers, creators, influencersand our developers."
Twitter is the best way to give live updates of your products & services, and share Chinesecontent in real-time, with a global audience.— Kathy Chen (@kathychen2016) April 15, 2016
Chen has over 20 years of IT industry experience with global MNCs, such as Microsoft, Cisco and Computer Associates, to establish high-growth enterprise businesses and opened up new markets in Greater China.
"As a global platform, we are already engaged with advertisers, content providers and influencers across Greater China to help them reach audiences around the world," a Twitter spokesperson told me.
"Going forward, we will look to Kathy's leadership to help us identify ways in which Twitter's platform and technology assets can be utilized to create further value for enterprises, creators, influencers, partners and developers in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan."
I think that its key that Chen mentioned advertisers first, as there were reports that came out roughly a year ago of Twitter aggressively courting Chinese advertisers, when the company made presentations to prospective Chinese clients in Shanghai.
"It's not a coincidence that we are here now," Peter Greenberger, director of sales for emerging markets at Twitter, told Reuters at the time.
"This seems to be a moment in time where Chinese corporations really feel the urge to be global and, in fact, there's even a mandate from the government saying 'go global', which is exciting."
That is the same strategy that Facebook has taken to make money off a market it cannot legally operate in. Facebook has been banned in China since 2008, but last year Zuckerberg said it was still one of the company's biggest ad markets due to Chinese businesses using it to sell products outside of their home country.
"It already is one of the biggest advertising markets that we have. Because there are a lot of really big and important Chinese companies who sell a lot of product to people outside of China. And they use Facebook as one of their primary tools and, in lot of cases, to spread information world about what they're doing and grow their customer base," he said.
There are a number of reasons that Twitter would like to be in China, not least of which is that it happens to have the largest number of Internet users on the planet, with 720 million. That is a prospect that I can't imagine any company passing up, especially Twitter which has had so many problems growing its users numbers.
There's one big issue, though: censorship, something that Twitter, and all the other social networks, have been grappling with in recent months after the shootings in San Bernardino. Twitter got sued for not doing enough, and has since gone and shut down a slew of ISIS propaganda accounts, while Facebook has been setting new guidelines for cracking down on hate speech.
Censorship, however, is a fine line and the company has been accused, in the past, of going too far with how it handles certain topics. China is even trickier due to the government's control over the Internet, and Twitter could be walking into a minefield. LinkedIn got into a lot of trouble when it was found to be censoring its content as a way to gain access to the Chinese market a couple of years ago.
VatorNews reached out to Twitter for more information about Chen's new role, and Twitter's future in China. We will update this story if we learn more.