Social media platforms are cautious when it comes to the Russian government
The issue marks another front in the sprawling information war against Ukraine. And it highlights the challenge for social media platforms posed by Russian government accounts which critics say are freely allowed to spread misinformation to millions of users, even as those same platforms have moved to restrict Russian state media content for similar concerns.
However, as the information war continues and US officials increasingly blame the Russian government for spreading false claims, tech platforms may come under more pressure to crack down on Kremlin-linked accounts, according to disinformation experts.
“We are currently in a serious crisis situation, and we are in an information war situation where perhaps suspending these accounts, or even banning them for eternity, would make a lot of sense,” said Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a think tank that receives support from some tech giants, including Google and Microsoft. “For now [the platforms] We have stuck to a more free speech approach rather than a blocking approach, which I also understand, but again we are in a very different situation with regard to what is happening in Ukraine in this moment.”
California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell put it more bluntly in a tweet last week: “RT NOW if @twitter should ban baby-killing country Russia from its platform.”
Similar posts from Russian Embassy officials were also removed from Twitter for violating that platform’s policy against denying violent events, company spokeswoman Katie Rosborough told CNN.
The affected Russian accounts remain active on both websites, as well as the Russian Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry. On Twitter, an account run by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office still shares Kremlin promotional photos and links to press releases. And on YouTube, a Russian government channel airs speeches by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“We don’t delete accounts even when we disagree with the content they post, but we do take action when they violate our rules,” Meta said. Pusateri. “The world deserves the opportunity to hear and consider content from Russian leaders right now.”
Like Facebook, Twitter tags government-run accounts, including those in Russia, for transparency. Twitter added on Wednesday that its measures to restrict Russian state media had resulted in a 30% decrease in the reach of such content and that it had also begun labeling accounts belonging to the Ukrainian and Belarusian governments.
“While we have had a policy regarding state-affiliated media and government accounts for years, the war in Ukraine poses a complicated set of challenges in how we manage accounts,” Rosborough said in a statement. “Our goal is to consistently enforce our rules while balancing the public interest.”
YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi said the platform’s policies applied equally to all users, including Russian government channels, and “our teams continue to monitor the situation closely.” Asked to name a Russia-related account that was banned from the platform, Choi said YouTube fired Vladimir Solovyov, a pro-Russian broadcaster, for repeatedly violating YouTube policies, including its policy. against incitement. But the company hasn’t identified any official Russian government accounts that have been banned.
Differences between platforms and how they operate have in some cases led to different policies and approaches to enforcement, Polyakova said, adding that tighter regulation could lead to more uniform policies across the board. Of the industry.
“We’ve seen this hodgepodge approach that hasn’t always been coordinated or consistent; in general, it creates a lot of vulnerabilities and openings for disinformation spreaders,” Polyakova said.
The handling of Russian government accounts by social media sites also echoes how companies have treated individual politicians for years.
Tech companies have been battling over how to handle Donald Trump’s claims – both before and during his presidency – with most platforms saying it’s important users hear what public figures have to say, if only to help them to be accountable. While some might argue it’s in the public interest for Russia’s claims to be documented and preserved, Polyakova said there will always be ways to access Russian propaganda without giving her a megaphone on social media. social.
Posts seen by CNN this week containing the debunked claims about Ukrainian biolabs did not come with warnings or content labels, although the platforms labeled the Russian accounts as government-run under existing policies.
Rapidly changing military, political and diplomatic situations can cause platforms to hesitate in many scenarios, said Karen Kornbluh, disinformation expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
“It’s a tough balancing act for rigs,” Kornbluh said. “They don’t want to make the decisions in foreign policy disputes.”
But while tech companies may fear finding themselves in an awkward position, Kornbluh said, social media platforms should still consider applying some of the same restrictions they have applied to state media to Russian government accounts. Russians, “especially when it’s the same government criminalizing the truth in Russia with the new ‘fake news’ law that threatens more than a decade in prison for contradicting official war narratives.