Meta plans further crackdowns on Russian state-backed media

1 Mar 2022

Image: © IB Photography/Stock.adobe.com

The tech giant’s president for global affairs Nick Clegg said that even though Meta was a private company, it had a duty to respond and take ‘pretty exceptional measures’.

Meta’s global affairs team has vowed to increase its crackdown on Kremlin-controlled Russian media sites such as RT and Sputnik.

Meta and other tech platforms including Twitter have already blocked access across the EU to Russian state media bodies. Reddit has also quarantined its r/Russia subreddit.

Future Human

Meta’s response to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine coincides with the publication of its latest Community Standards Enforcement Report.

The report covers the fourth quarter of 2021 and includes the company’s responses to terrorism and online hate-spreading organisations, as well as harassment and bullying.

The tech giant’s president for global affairs Nick Clegg said today (1 March) that the events in Ukraine gave “even greater resonance” to the report’s publication.

Clegg said Meta’s ongoing efforts regarding Russia’s invasion involved the establishment of a special operations centre staffed by both Ukrainian and Russian speakers.

People in both countries can lock their Facebook profiles to ensure their safety and encrypted one-to-one chats have been made available for all adults in both nations on Instagram.

Clegg said that any further updates and advice on personal safety for Meta users in both countries would be added in due course.

“We, the tech sector as a whole, has been responsive, not least in the face of numerous demands that have been made of us by governments and regulators in the European Union and in Ukraine,” he said.

Clegg added that even though Meta was a private company, it had a duty to “respond to these requests as thoughtfully” as possible.

“But we’re also aware that we’re in completely unprecedented situation. This is a highly exceptional and tragic state of affairs, which is why not only ourselves but many others in the tech sector are taking these pretty exceptional measures at this time,” he concluded.

Blocking Russian state media

Meta’s VP of integrity Guy Rosen said that the company had blocked Russian state-backed media from advertising and monetising around the world.

“We have labelled a number of Russian state media entities and our teams are continuing to investigate and identify additional Russian state media entities that we’re adding labels to as time passes.

In addition, in response to specific requests from the Ukrainian government and the government in the EU, we have blocked particular Russian state media entities from messaging into those regions entirely.”

Meta has also begun to demote posts with links to Russian state-controlled media websites on Facebook, Rosen added.

He said that in the coming days Meta would label media links “so that in addition to seeing labels on the Facebook pages and content from the Facebook pages of these entities, people also see labels and have context on links to their websites before clicking on them or sharing them. We’ll also be taking the steps on Instagram.”

Meta’s head of global policy management Monika Bickert said that Meta had also made efforts to make its misinformation policy easier to understand and access by consolidating it all into one section.

The move was part of a recommendation made by Meta’s oversight board. The independent body decides if content should remain on Facebook or Instagram after it is appealed following removal.

Yesterday, Clegg tweeted that Meta would continue to work closely with governments on the escalating conflict in Ukraine, adding that his team had received a number of requests from the EU and other governments to take further steps in relation to Russian state-controlled media.

Tomorrow (2 March) at 8am, a group of Ukrainians are planning to gather outside Meta’s headquarters in Dublin to call on Facebook and Google to remove all Kremlin-backed accounts from their platforms.

The protesters will walk from Meta’s headquarters on Grand Canal Square to Google’s headquarters on Barrow Street to deliver an open letter to the employees and leadership of both companies. They will also distribute flyers to the public.

The tech sector has been working over the past number of days to support Ukrainians and to lessen any adverse impacts its platforms might have on the democracy and peacekeeping process. The country has already been hit by a wave of cyberattacks linked to Russian cybercriminals.

Meanwhile, Airbnb has pledged to provide free short term accommodation to up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com