On the internet and on the radio, Russia is stepping up its efforts to influence the narrative around its invasion of Ukraine. Tech behemoths, on the other hand, are striking back.
Both Meta, the owner of Facebook, and Google, the parent company of Alphabet Inc., have imposed limitations on Russia’s state-controlled media outlets in Ukraine and around the world.
On Friday, Russia announced that it would impose some restrictions on Facebook, citing a refusal by the company to comply with a government order to suspend independent fact-checking by various Russian official media sources, according to Meta.
By Saturday, Twitter had also announced that some Russian users will be unable to use the service.
From Facebook to TikTok, media platforms are under fire
From Facebook to TikTok and Twitch, major social, video, and live-streaming platforms are facing increasing pressure to tackle online falsehoods about the conflict, including the circulation of deceptive material.
On Monday, Russia issued an order to Google restricting access to content posted as part of Google Ads that it said contained incorrect information about Russian military and civilians killed in Ukraine.
Roskomnadzor, the state communications regulator, said it had issued a letter to Google demanding the removal of the illegal items and that it would ban internet services that disseminate such information.
Bans on advertising, slowdowns, and shutdowns
If the corporations do not comply, Russia has threatened them with a ban on advertising. Russian officials have warned that worse restrictions, such as speed slowdowns or outright bans, may be imposed.
As the turmoil in Ukraine ignites an information war, tech behemoths are finding themselves in a precarious position.
Companies must evaluate demands from Ukrainian officials and sympathizers throughout the world, who have urged them to exclude Russian users from their services to prevent the propagation of false information, while also allowing dissidents access to critical digital tools.
Russia’s state-controlled media is being scrutinized
The activities of state-controlled media sites like RT and Sputnik, which were sanctioned by the EU on Sunday, have been a major source of friction between Moscow and major tech platforms, with activists and politicians demanding that the businesses demonetize or prohibit the Kremlin-backed publications.
Roskomnadzor has advised local media not to spread “false information” about Moscow’s military action in Ukraine, prohibiting the use of the terms “invasion” and “assault” to characterise the offensive.
Yandex, the Russian IT behemoth, has begun warning Russian users searching for news about Ukraine on its search engine about the dangers of false information on the internet.
Russia calls its operations a “special operation,” claiming that they are not intended to take territory but rather to degrade Ukraine’s military capabilities and catch persons it considers to be dangerous nationalists, a claim that the Ukrainian government and Western powers deny.