State-run Chinese outlets paid Facebook to advertise propaganda denying Uyghur genocide

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A new report suggests that social media giant Facebook enabled Chinese state-run propaganda outlets to publish posts that minimized concerns over China’s treatment of its Uyghur population. 

The Press Gazette reports that China Daily and CGTN ran advertisements on Facebook that cast doubt on reports of human rights abuses committed by the country. Independently verified reports and the U.S. government have found that China has upwards of a million members of the Uyghur ethnic minority incarcerated in internment camps in the western province of Xinjiang. 

Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, told the Press Gazette that it was “beyond disgusting that Facebook is taking money to promote Chinese state propaganda denying the reality that their state is engaged in crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims.” 

According to the publication's findings, the Chinese propaganda outlets dismissed human rights concerns as Western “disinformation,” and Facebook allowed the Chinese publications to promote the content to millions of people. The Press Gazette found that for a mere $400, China Daily was able to target more than one million users with a video that claimed to debunk independent press reports from Xinjiang.

The propaganda piece detailed how Western politicians, think tanks and the media “work together to align narratives that drive public discussion and pervade the public consciousness often with malevolent intent.”

Another sponsored video claimed that reports on concentration camps in Xinjiang were “completely false.” It alleged that the productions were “straight from the manual of western media tricks.” 

Another paid ad accused Western media of spreading lies and disinformation and told viewers that “the tale of an oppressed Xinjiang is a myth that western media refuse to give up.” 

CGTN has since been banned in the United Kingdom by broadcasting regulator Ofcom, but Facebook has allowed the outlet to continue promoting Chinese propaganda to its users, including a post that praised “vocational training centers” in Xinjiang. 

A BBC report from February uncovered allegations of systemic rape of Uyghur women in the Xinjiang camps. The report has since become a clarion call for both the U.S. and U.K. governments, who have condemned China over the allegations of sexual abuse of female detainees in the so-called “vocational training centers.”

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