Around the world, big tech is dancing with repressive governments that crack down on dissidents and freedom of speech. Google saw an opportunity to get cozy after a meeting with Egyptian government ministers, announcing plans to hire full-time staff for its Cairo office, which had been dormant since a coup brought Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to power.
And after reviewing Twitter advertisements between June and August, Ryan Gallagher discovered the social media giant had promoted Chinese government propaganda about the country's Xinjiang region — where Muslim Uighurs are being sent to concentration camps. Facing criticism over similar propaganda related to demonstrations in Hong Kong, Facebook and Twitter took action for the first time against a coordinated Chinese government campaign, suspending or removing accounts. Twitter went even further and instituted a new policy: no more ads from state-controlled news media entities.
Though it's a small victory in the fight against disinformation, we can't depend on big tech to police themselves. It's clear governments aren't well suited for the task either. One loud example: This week, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro falsely accused environmental NGOs of setting fires in the Amazon rainforest; our reporting has showed that it was his rise to power that emboldened the burning of Indigenous land to make way for cattle and soy. We've also linked this exploitation of the Amazon to GOP lobbyists.
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