Facebook staffers were reportedly growing concerned that the platform was allowing Chinese state actors to buy ads spreading propaganda with limited regulations, according to a report published Friday.
Employees were discussing ads purchased by Chinese entities that depict “thriving” Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. China was estimated to have detained at least 1 million Uyghurs in reeducation camps, in what the U.S. considered an act of genocide.
Facebook has been blocked in China since 2009, but has earned $5 billion per year in advertising revenue from Chinese businesses and government agencies, according to Reuters. One Muslim Facebook employee reportedly authored a “plea to leadership” for the company to “action to fight misinformation on the Uighur genocide,” according to the Journal.
Chinese state media checked it out and says “no Uyghur genocide” so case closed. Watch this and understand how low the bar for dictatorship propaganda has fallen. https://t.co/tBfx8qCsTz
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) April 2, 2021
Chief product officer Chris Cox was tagged in that internal memo, according to the Journal.
“This is incredibly serious. Let me check with our integrity teams for a status update and circle back personally,” he reportedly said.
Advertisements purchased by Beijing included videos featuring children showcasing the supposedly great lives they are living in Xinjiang detention camps, the Journal reported. The ads claim that the West was trying to “destabilize China” with false claims of genocide.
China has continued to deny any abuse was or is being carried out against the Uyghurs. (RELATED: China Says Black Americans Are Being ‘Slaughtered,’ So US Shouldn’t Comment On Uyghur Genocide)
Chinese officials describe the detention camps as “vocational training centers” designed to combat religious extremism and terrorism. The United States and some European countries say sterilization and torture of the Uyghur Muslim minority is part of a “cultural genocide.”
Facebook removed some Chinese ads if they were not properly labeled as “social and political issues,” the Journal reported. However, some ads have remained up for days, racking up thousands of views before being removed.Twitter, on the other hand, recently disciplined a Chinese embassy account for a tweet about Uyghurs. (RELATED: Apple CEO Blasts Georgia Voting Law, But Has Stayed Silent On Chinese Repression)
State-run Xinhua News Agency reportedly purchased an ad last month featuring the mayor of the capital city of Xinjiang. In the ad, the mayor claims “peace and stability that people from all ethnic groups in Xinjiang once longed for has become a reality,” and accused the West of trying to disrupt China’s internal affairs.
The ad was viewed more than 200,000 times before being removed, according to the Journal.