Facebook is taking money from China to promote Communist propaganda which denies atrocities against the Uyghur Muslims, an investigation has revealed.
The Silicon Valley behemoth pocketed Beijing’s cash to promote articles which downplayed what Washington has called a genocide in Xinjiang, according to The Press Gazette.
China Daily and CGTN – the state-backed TV channel recently banned in the UK – have paid Mark Zuckerberg‘s firm just a few hundred dollars a time to promote posts to millions of users.
It comes as Facebook, worth £560 billion, was today accused of going to war with democracy as it banned Australians from sharing and accessing news on its website after Sydney threatened to force it to pay media companies for using their content.
Facebook charged China Daily less than $400 to beam this post to a million users. It accuses Western media and politicians of ‘lies’ and ‘disinformation’ about the Uighur Muslims
Two more adverts boosted on Facebook by China Daily for small fees to downplay concerns about Xinjiang. These adverts were later removed by Facebook but not before they reached millions of users
President Xi Jiping reportedly ordered officials in Xinjiang to respond to a 2014 terror attack in the province ‘with absolutely no mercy.’ US officials claim the insurgency has been used as an excuse to commit genocide
As Facebook withholds money from Australian media with one hand, so they take it from Chinese media firms with the other and beam Communist falsities to millions of people around the world.
They charged just $400 for China Daily, Beijing’s propaganda newspaper and website, to promote an article in October which accused Western countries of ‘lies’ and ‘disinformation.’
Facebook’s advertising analytics website shows the advert was mainly targeted at young men in Nepal which borders Xinjiang.
It shows clips of Western commentators discussing the plight of the Uyghurs and says: ‘Politicians, think tanks and the media work together to align narratives that drive public discussion and pervade the public consciousness often with malevolent intent’.
In another China Daily-sponsored video, it calls reports on the internment camps in Xinjiang ‘completely false’ and ‘straight from the manual of Western media tricks.’
An investigation by The Press Gazette uncovered how another China Daily post said: ‘The tale of an oppressed Xinjiang is a myth Western media refuse to give up.’
CGTN, which was taken off air in Britain earlier this month after the watchdog found it in breach of licensing rules on impartiality, paid Facebook to advertise a post which promoted ‘vocational training centres’ in Xinjiang.
Facebook’s most ‘liked’ news pages
Five out of six of the most ‘liked’ news pages on Facebook are Chinese, with close ties to the government in Beijing.
Facebook is banned in China, meaning they are purely promoting content to foreigners or Chinese living abroad.
CGTN: 114 million
China Daily: 103 million
China Xinhua News: 88 million
People’s Daily, China: 86 million
BBC News: 53 million
CCTV: 49 million
Source: Social Blade
Beijing has repeatedly denied that it is attempting to rid the province of its ethnic culture, saying instead that the internment camps are for ‘re-education.’
It is estimated that more than a million Uyghurs have been taken to the secretive camps where human rights groups say they are banned from practising Islam, indoctrinated with Communism and women are raped and sterilised.
The policy came after a 2014 terror attack by separatists in the province.
Leaked dossiers reportedly showed that President Xi Jinping ordered officials there to respond ‘with absolutely no mercy.’
Critics say the government has used the insurgency as an excuse to commit atrocities against the Uyghurs.
The US government in January said that China’s actions there amounted to genocide, an accusation Beijing dismissed as ‘lies and absurd allegations.’
In some of the news stories highlighted above from China Daily and CGTN, Facebook stopped running the adverts on the grounds that they failed to declare that they had a political bent – in breach of the tech giant’s rules.
But many of the adverts ran for several days before this was realised, allowing the propaganda to permeate across computer and mobile phone screens across the globe.
Despite Facebook being blocked in China, state-run news outlets like CGTN, China Daily, China Xinhua News, the People’s Daily and CCTV, use the social media site to promote their content.
They are among five of the six most liked news pages in the world on Facebook, with BBC News ranking fifth.
Many of their posts appear innocuous, showing off China’s Great Wall or its native panda bears, but others are blatantly political.
In January 2019, CGTN paid less than $100 for a post quoting a Malaysian diplomat who said: ‘What we saw during the visit was opposite to some Western media reports, and Xinjiang is seeking an effective way to counter extremism and terrorism.’
A post by China Daily which claimed a Reuters report about the Muslims in Xinjiang was ‘fake’
Screenshots from a documentary by China Daily which was promoted on Facebook for a fee. It aimed to paint the internment camps in Xinjiang in a positive light
A ‘sanitation worker’ describes how she ‘loves’ working in Kuitun, a city in northern Xijiang
In April 2019, China Daily paid $100 to target one million Facebook users with a video which showed Mexicans clambering over the border fence into the United States.
The month before was a story about ‘catastrophic’ flooding of farmlands in Nebraska, with images of cattle carcasses piled high.
The advert was taken down, but not before it reached hundreds of thousands of users at a cost of just $100.
As Beijing came under increasing pressure from Washington over their Uighur internment camps last month, its media outlets ramped up posts denying there was anything wrong in Xinjiang.
On January 26, it paid Facebook to boost a post which railed against an Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report that found evidence of 380 camps in Xinjiang.
The advertised documentary said: ‘China Daily visited the alleged “camps” in the Australian think tank ASPI’s reports on Xinjiang and found its data, analysis and conclusions are completely false.’
It claims that one of the camps uncovered by ASPI was ‘simply a detention centre – not unlike thousands of such penal institutions you can find anywhere in the world. But ASPI chooses to call it a camp. It’s a rebranding exercise straight from the manual of Western media tricks’.
A news article which quotes the foreign minister ripping into the Trump White House was boosted in August for a cost of $100
A post which China Daily paid $100 for in 2019 to highlight chaos on the US border with Mexico
In March 2019, there was a story about ‘catastrophic’ flooding of farmlands in Nebraska, showing images of cattle carcasses piled high. The advert was taken down, but not before it reached hundreds of thousands of users at a cost of just $100.
Another sponsored post said: ‘Is forced labor taking place in Xinjiang? China Daily interviewed more than 50 workers in factories across Xinjiang. Watch to learn what we uncovered.’
A third by China Daily claimed: ‘Western media reports on China’s #Xinjiang often fail to present the real story. Instead, they incite disinformation by resorting to manipulative editing, citing unfounded reports and appealing to biases, a China Daily special investigation uncovers.’
The video seeks to discredit a New York Times investigation which found the Communist Party was trying to mould Xinjiang’s minorities into loyal comrades for cheap labour.
It also slams BBC reporting and calls coverage by Reuters and the Associated Press ‘fake.’
The Press Gazette uncovered these three sponsored posts in Facebook’s analytics library on January 29. They have since been deleted.
It is understood that these adverts were removed from the records because they were not classified as political.
Records of non-political adverts disappear from the library when the advertiser pauses or stops running them.
Last month, CGTN paid $200-299 to promote an editorial which argued ‘Western media distorts #Xinjiang boarding schools’.
Also in January, they paid less than $500 to boost an article titled: ‘What is the real condition in boarding schools in Xinjiang? What changes have these schools brought to local students? CGTN’s Cui Hui’ao talked to some of the boarders at Shenta Middle School. #Xinjiang.’
Facebook took down both of the CGTN posts but not before they reached 400,000 and one million users respectively.
A post which promoted President Xi Jinping’s leading the fight against coronavirus
An article by Xinhua News Agency was promoted for $100. It describes the close ties between China and Bill Gates
Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Centre for Countering Hate, told The Press Gazette that ‘it is beyond disgusting that Facebook is taking money to promote Chinese state propaganda.’
He added: ‘It’s preposterous for them to claim they hadn’t seen that five of their six most liked news pages were driving division and whitewashing atrocities. No one will believe they hadn’t noticed.’
A Facebook spokesman told MailOnline: ‘As part of our ongoing efforts to provide greater transparency around advertising, Facebook does not allow political ads to run without a disclaimer providing more information about who is running them.
‘In this case, we disapproved a number of the ads shared with us for failing to declare they were political in nature, which meant they were not allowed to run on our platform.
‘We want to help people better understand who’s behind the news they see on Facebook.
‘That is why we also announced last year our plan to label media outlets that are wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government as part of our wider ads transparency efforts, and will continue to roll this out to more publishers.’