Facebook Blocked Account Of Exiled Billionaire In NYC After China Complaint

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Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch admitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that his company had taken down the account of Chinese dissident Guo Wengui, who lives in the US, on the strength of a report filed to the tech giant by the Chinese government.

Guo, a billionaire living in New York City who is a harsh critic of the Chinese government, published on Facebook “sometimes outlandish tales of deep corruption among family members of top Communist Party officials,” the New York Times wrote a month ago, as it reported that Guo’s account had been taken down.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked the pointed question: “[Guo’s] Facebook account was blocked, and Facebook has informed us that he violated terms of service. I think he published personal identifying information about individuals and that violated the terms of service. I understand that argument. My question, what I want to be clear is was there any pressure from the Chinese government to block his account?”

Stretch, initially, appeared to mislead Rubio in his answer: “No, senator, we reviewed a report on that account and analyzed it through regular channels using our regular procedures,” he said. “The blocking was not of the account in its entirety, but I believe was of specific posts that violated our policy.”

Rubio was dubious. “You can testify that you did not come under pressure from the Chinese government or any of its representatives or people working for them to block his account or to block whatever it is you blocked?” he asked.

Put in those terms, Stretch could not, in fact, pull off a denial. “I want to make sure I’m being precise and clear,” he said. “We did receive a report from representatives of the Chinese government about the account. We analyzed that report as we would any other and took action solely based on our policies.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Thielman is an investigative reporter for Talking Points Memo based in Manhattan. He has worked as a reporter and critic for the Guardian, Variety, Adweek and Newsday, where he covered stories from the hacking attacks on US and international targets by Russian GRU and FSB security services to the struggle to bring broadband internet to the Navajo nation. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son and too many comic books.
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