One Republican lawmaker is questioning a recent advertising decision made by social media giant Facebook, which, he says, appears to be aimed at censoring dissenting viewpoints.
In a letter sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, Indiana Rep. Jim Banks accused Facebook of “indirectly” aiding the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship efforts because it chose to ban ads from the Epoch Times, which was founded by an ex-Chinese citizen.
The conservative, pro-Trump newspaper has ties to mainland China and a global circulation, which allows it to give insight into the goings-on inside the Communist-controlled country, Banks said.
“The Times is better suited than any Western newspaper to access information in China, and it’s able to report on and distribute that information to interested parties without being censored – at least by the Chinese Community Party,” Banks wrote. “The rest of the world needs a Chinese dissident paper now more than ever. And that’s the exact sort of newspaper you’ve chosen to censor. Facebook has realized a Chinese Communist Party goal outside of China’s homeland.”
The Epoch Times’ official Facebook accounts were banned in July. NBC reported that it then tried to run ads that were associated with the publication, without disclosing that association.
Facebook chose to permanently ban the Epoch Times from advertising in late August, for violating its advertising policies.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed in a statement that the outlet is no longer able to advertise with them.
"Over the past year we removed accounts associated with the Epoch Times for violating our ad policies, including trying to get around our review systems. We acted on additional accounts in August and they are no longer able to advertise with us," the spokesperson said.
Banks asked Zuckerberg to provide a concrete reason for its initial decision to take the publication’s ads down, which allegedly led it to put up the deceptive ads.
According to NBC News, the Epoch Times spent about $2 million on Facebook ads, and a lot of them were pro-Trump.
The social media site has come under fire for its advertising policy, including its refusal to take down false political ads alleging it is not their job to decide whether the ad is true. It has also been criticized for having an alleged anti-conservative bias.