Flood of Russian misinformation puts tech companies in the hot seat | social media
Millions of people are flocking to platforms like Facebook, TikTok and Twitter for 24/7 updates on the Russian invasion of Ukraine – putting renewed scrutiny to the outsized role tech companies play in spreading war news .
Social media has long played an important role in distributing frontline footage, but Ukraine represents a new dimension of global conflict that private platforms must navigate.
Tech companies face a constant stream of misinformation and disinformation, propaganda from Russian-backed channels, violent content and on-site footage of fleeing refugees, leading politicians and tech watchdogs to seek greater accountability and transparency in Regarding the way companies are demanding deploy their powerful platforms.
Ukrainian officials last week urged US tech giants to take action against Russia, urging them to restrict access to their services inside Russia, step up their efforts to curb the spread of misinformation and crack down on state-backed Russian outlets.
“In 2022, modern technology may be the best answer to the tanks, multiple rocket launchers and missiles,” Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said in a letter to Tim Cook questioning the Apple CEO to cut off Russia’s access to the App Store.
Over the weekend, the prime ministers of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia sent a joint letter to the chief executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter, urging them to proactively ban accounts that deny, glorify or justify wars of aggression and war crimes, crimes against humanity.
“Although online platforms have made significant efforts to counter the Russian government’s unprecedented assault on the truth, they have not done enough,” the letter reads.
They also called on the companies to freeze the official accounts of Russian and Belarusian government institutions, state-controlled media, and personal accounts of the countries’ leaders and their employees who routinely spread false information about the invasion.
Some platforms have reacted to this. Twitter said as of Feb. 27 it permanently banned more than a dozen accounts and blocked some content that violated its “tampering and spam” policy. Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki spoke to EU officials on Sunday about how to better tackle misinformation.
Meta that owns Facebook locked Blocked Russian state media from selling ads on their platforms and removing networks of accounts spreading misinformation. Her vice-president Nick Clegg tweeted on Monday that she had restricted access to Kremlin-backed media outlets RT and Sputnik across the EU after requests from a number of governments and the EU.
Clegg also said Meta will continue to label and fact check those outlets, as well as ban ads and demonstrate their accounts worldwide.
However, some argue that this is not enough. Although Facebook said in October 2019 it would begin “flagging state-controlled media on its page and in our advertising library,” as part of efforts to stop disinformation targeting US elections, according to a study published on Friday from the Center for Countering Digital Hate showed that Facebook did not flag 91% of posts containing Russian propaganda about Ukraine.
“Facebook has again failed in its promise to enforce its own rules,” said Imran Ahmed, executive director of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “The justification for the Russian war on Ukraine was built on Facebook.”
An activist group that oversees Facebook’s policy, calling itself the Real Facebook Oversight Board, has urged the platform to take “more aggressive action” to stop the spread of misinformation.
The group has urged Meta to completely cut off state-funded Russian media and to proactively ban accounts that justify wars of aggression. It also requested more information on how many resources Facebook dedicates to moderating content in Russia and Ukraine, including in local languages.
Others have called for more direct state intervention in how tech companies deal with Russia. The Biden administration should impose clear sanctions that prevent American digital media companies from doing business with Russian state accounts and making money, said Justin Hendrix, CEO and publisher of nonprofit democracy and technology media company Tech Policy Press.
“This is war, and the lies and untruths that Russian state media and Putin’s officials will be spreading across American social media platforms over the next few days are weapons designed to legitimize the brutality of the Kremlin, the allies of the… Divide Ukraine and reduce any potential opposition,” he said.
Reuters contributed to this report