A new outside report found that Facebook has allowed groups — many tied to QAnon, boogaloo and militia movements — to glorify violence during the 2020 election and in the weeks leading up to the deadly riots on the U.S. Capitol in January. Avaaz, a nonprofit advocacy group that says it seeks to protect democracies from misinformation, identified 267 pages and groups on Facebook that it says spread violence-glorifying material in the heat of the 2020 election to a combined following of 32 million users. More than two-thirds of the groups and pages had names that aligned with several domestic extremist movements, the report found. The first, boogaloo, promotes a second U.S. civil war and the breakdown of modern society. The second is the QAnon conspiracy, which claims that Donald Trump is waging a secret battle against the “deep state” and a sect of powerful Satan-worshipping pedophiles who dominate Hollywood, big business, the media and government. The rest are various anti-government militias. All have been largely banned from Facebook since 2020. But despite what Avaaz called “clear violations” of Facebook’s policies, it found that 119 of these pages and groups were still active on the platform as of March 18 and had just under 27 million followers. Facebook acknowledged that its policy enforcement “isn’t perfect,” but said the report distorts its work against violent extremism and misinformation. The company said in a statement that it has done more than any other internet company to stanch the flow of harmful material, citing its bans of “nearly 900 militarized social movements” and the removal of tens of thousands of QAnon pages, groups, and accounts. It added that it is always improving its efforts against misinformation. On Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai are slated to testify before Congress about extremism and misinformation on their platforms. Facebook has tightened its rules against violence, hate and misinformation in the past year. In October, it banned QAnon groups across its platform. Before that, it would remove them only if they expressly supported violence. It has also banned extremist and militia movements and boogaloo groups with varying degrees of success.

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China looked to Europe as an amicable partner as the continent’s leaders resisted being drawn into President Donald Trump’s conflicts with Beijing over trade, technology and human rights.

On Monday, that image shattered when the European Union (EU) joined Washington, Britain and Canada in imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over accusations they abused ethnic minorities. Beijing retaliated by announcing it would penalize four European legislators and a German researcher.

The timing is symbolic. It highlights U.S.-European cooperation two months after Trump, who disdained the trans-Atlantic alliance, was succeeded by President Joe Biden, who wants to form an alliance to confront China.

The penalties are the EU’s first against China since Beijing’s 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.

“What they have done is a slander and an affront to the reputation and dignity of the Chinese people,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying. “They will pay the price for their folly and arrogance.”

Europe’s move follows mounting grievances about trade and human rights that soured attitudes toward China. Earlier proposals to criticize China’s human rights record were vetoed by Hungary and Greece, possibly to avoid disrupting trade and investment ties.

More broadly, the conflict reflects a decline in China’s relations with the West and Asian neighbors including India as President Xi Jinping’s government pursues more assertive trade and strategic policies.

The sanctions apply to four senior officials in Xinjiang, the northwestern territory where exiles and human rights groups say more than 1 million people have been forced into detention camps. The officials are barred from traveling in Europe. The EU also froze any European assets of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, a paramilitary-style organization that dominates the region’s economy.

The Chinese foreign ministry gave no details of penalties against Europeans. But previous sanctions on foreign officials barred them from China, Hong Kong or Macau. Companies associated with them are barred from doing business in China.

The impact is limited, but the public spat is a diplomatic setback for Beijing.

On Tuesday, the Chinese foreign minister joined his Russian counterpart in denouncing the coordinated sanctions. They rejected criticism of their authoritarian systems and accused the United States of interfering in other countries.

 

 

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