China has banned Facebook but that hasn’t stopped Beijing from using the social media platform as a gigantic instrument of state propaganda.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world are exposed to Facebook highlighting sponsored posts from the Chinese Communists that show Muslim ethnic minority Uyghurs happy and laughing the day away in China’s Xinjiang region.
The reality is that China uses millions of Uyghurs as slave laborers in its cotton fields and factories.
Facebook employees have expressed concern that their employer is just another cog in the Chinese disinformation machine that has hidden the human rights atrocities of the Communists — including genocide — by lying about conditions Uyghurs have to live in.
Facebook hasn’t determined whether to act on the concerns, say people familiar with the matter. The company is watching how international organizations such as the United Nations respond to the situation in Xinjiang, one of the people said. The U.N. this week called on firms conducting Xinjiang-linked business to undertake “meaningful human rights due diligence” on their operations.
A Facebook spokesman said that the ads taken out by Beijing pertaining to Xinjiang don’t violate current policies so long as the advertisers follow Facebook’s rules when purchasing them. He said the company is monitoring reports of the situation in Xinjiang “to help inform our approach and due diligence on this issue.”
There are very good reasons Facebook doesn’t want to rock the boat with China. Five billion reasons.
Although Facebook has been blocked in China since 2009, its revenue from advertisers in the country may exceed $5 billion a year, according to some research-firm analysts who study digital advertising. That would make it the company’s largest revenue source after the U.S. Facebook doesn’t break out revenue by country.
Taking action against state-controlled media outlets on Facebook presents a quandary for the company, some of those analysts say. The ads may contain content that Facebook staff are uncomfortable with, but introducing policies to tackle them would amount to deciding what governments are allowed to broadcast on the platform.
Hitler would have loved Facebook.
This is not a question of posting the views of the Chinese government on trade, or geo-political issues, or on celebrations of the Chinese New Year, or any other sovereign national issue. There is truth. And there are lies. And if Facebook can’t tell the difference between “opinion” or “propaganda,” it should cease accepting ads from all governments everywhere.
“These ads provide a vehicle for Beijing’s propaganda,” said a spokesman for New York-based human-rights group Avaaz, which has studied Xinjiang and the Chinese government’s Facebook advertising practices. “Even if the amounts aren’t huge, it’s a direct profit stream” for Facebook, he said. “That’s what’s particularly troubling.”
But “troubling” to whom? Certainly not Facebook leadership that feigns surprise and shock that the Uyghurs are mistreated. Nor does it appear to trouble the Chinese government news service, CGTN.
CGTN, a part of Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, last year paid more than $400 to promote a video featuring students in a Xinjiang boarding school, where some academic researchers say children of arrested or detained individuals are sometimes sent. In the video, children in interviews say they are happy to be in the facilities because they are eating nutritious food and receiving an education.
The ad was shown more than 1 million times over a four-day period to Facebook users in countries such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh before it was removed.
Communists will do what Communists do. Propaganda is morally justified by the state and ambiguity is not permitted. Facebook should grow a pair, swallow the dollar loss, and stand up to the Chinese government by refusing them permission to use their platform to spread lies about genocide.