Mark Zuckerberg in 2020 bowed to demands from Vietnam’s government to censor posts with anti-state language rather than risk losing an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue from the country, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
The decision to side with Vietnam’s government led to a significant increase in censorship of posts in the country, according to the Post, which spoke with three people familiar with the decision in addition to local activists and free speech advocates. Facebook’s own transparency report shows that the company more than doubled the number of posts it blocked in the country — from 834 in the first half of 2020 to more than 2,200 posts in the second half of the year.
The revelation is one of several recent developments painting an increasingly damning picture of the Big Tech behemoth. Earlier this month, former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen came forward as a whistleblower to detail how the company “makes prioritizing their own profits over public safety, putting people’s lives at risk.” She has released a trove of internal documents known as the “Facebook Papers” that detail company discussions about the harm the platform has caused while revealing how Zuckerberg has sought to suppress the company’s own findings regarding said harm. Haugen testified before Congress last week, and her lawyers have filed eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission against the company.
In a statement to the Post, Facebook defended the Vietnam decision, saying it was warranted “to ensure our services remain available for millions of people who rely on them every day.” According to one of the Post‘s sources, Zuckerberg claimed that not complying with the government’s demands would be even worse for free speech in Vietnam, which targeted and even jailed individuals for posts that are even only mildly critical.
Facebook is also under scrutiny for its role in the insurrection, particularly how organizers of the rally used it as a tool to plan the day. Speaking on Face the Nation this past Sunday, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the House select committee investigating Jan. 6, lawmakers on the committee are currently “negotiating” with Facebook and other social platforms to get information on how they were used as “an organizing tool” by insurrectionists.