Facebook: Accusations of censorship

China silences critical voices (Press Release)

On January 9, 2021, Facebook blocked the page of the Kazakh non-governmental organization Atajurt, without giving any reasons. The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) demanded an immediate explanation why the social network blocked one of the most prominent organizations documenting the severe human rights violations in Xinjiang / East Turkestan, emphasizing that Facebook should not be allowed to suppress critical voices in China. Atajurt documented the suffering of Kazakh people in China's re-education camps in thousands of interviews with affected people. "Facebook must give valid reasons why it is silencing critics of China's crimes against humanity. Any attempt at censorship makes Facebook complicit in China's crimes," warned Ulrich Delius, the STP's Director, in Göttingen on Thursday. Around 1.6 million people – mainly Uyghurs, but also Kazakhs and Kyrgyz people – are kept detained in China's re-education camps, against their will.  

Atajurt founder Serikzhan Bilash also called on Facebook to finally give reasons for the far-reaching measure. So far, the technology company has not given any explanation for its actions. Bilash expressed shock and warned Facebook not to censor his organization's reports on forced labor camps in Xinjiang. "Atajurt has been under massive pressure from Kazakh authorities for several years. At the instigation of China, the authorities are trying to obstruct the work of the human rights organization with arbitrary arrests and unfair trials," Delius said.

According to the STP, Facebook still has huge interests in the growing Chinese market – despite the fact that the platform has been banned in the country since 2009. "Economically, China could be the second most important market for Facebook, after the United States," Delius said. This is because, according to estimates from the IT industry, Chinese advertisers would have contributed between five and seven billion US dollars to the technology group's revenue in 2018. "Facebook is still trying to return to the lucrative Chinese market for economic reasons. Apparently, the company is trying to appease China's ruling Communist Party by censoring critical voices in the country," Delius explained.