Mar 15, 2022 - Technology

Exclusive: Lawmakers press Meta on China ad policy

Photo illustration of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping with Russian banknotes and an outstretched hand

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Mikhail Svetlov, Leon Neal WPA Pool/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pressing Meta on its policy toward paid advertisements from Chinese state-sponsored media as the war in Ukraine continues and false Russian narratives proliferate, per a letter sent to CEO Mark Zuckerberg Tuesday.

Driving the news: The letter comes after Axios reported last week that state-controlled China Global TV Network had placed at least 21 ads on Meta-owned Facebook, many featuring newscasts pushing pro-Russia talking points about the ongoing attacks on Ukraine.

Why it matters: False narratives surrounding Russia's invasion of Ukraine are multiplying on both traditional and social media, and platforms are scrambling to adjust their policies accordingly.

What they're saying: The group of six House lawmakers, including Young Kim (R-Calif.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Ed Case (D-HI), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), acknowledged that Meta had taken steps to block Russian state media and affiliated outlets from monetizing content on the platform, but said the company hasn't gone far enough.

  • "Facebook has not focused on Chinese state broadcasters and affiliated accounts from buying ads and targeting global users with pro-Russian narratives on the Ukraine invasion," the lawmakers write.
  • "This is emblematic of a larger push by Chinese Communist Party-directed propaganda operations to influence global dialogue and policy on Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and must be met with a strong, coordinated public-private response."

Details: The lawmakers ask Meta to respond to five questions about their ad policies by March 31, including:

  • What steps the platform is taking to ensure Russian disinformation is not spread to global audiences through non-Russian accounts;
  • whether Meta will expand its U.S. policy of not letting state-related media buy ads globally;
  • and how much money Chinese state broadcasters have spent on ads about the invasion and where their ads were targeted.
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