Facebook and YouTube to restrict some Russian state-controlled media in Europe

Facebook faces more pressure to crack down on Russian state-controlled media outlets that spread propaganda.

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Facebook, YouTube and other social networks are restricting access to Russian state-controlled media RT and Sputnik across Europe, amid calls to crack down on disinformation. The move will likely increase tensions between some of the world’s most popular social networks and the Russian government.

Facebook parent company Meta said on Monday it would limit accessibility to Sputnik and RT across the European Union.

“We have received requests from a number of governments and the EU to take further action regarding Russian state-controlled media. Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we will restrict access to RT and Sputnik across the EU at the moment,” Nick Clegg, who oversees global affairs at Meta and former UK deputy prime minister, said in a Tweeter.

Clegg did not respond to questions on Twitter about what the restrictions entail, how many requests Meta has received and from which governments or how many Facebook users the restrictions will affect. Clegg also did not say when those restrictions would begin. RT’s Facebook page has 7.4 million followers and Sputnik’s Facebook page has 1.4 million followers. Media is also on Instagram, owned by Facebook, a photo and video service. RT has 839,000 followers on Instagram and Sputnik 116,000 followers.

On Tuesday, Google said in a Twitter post that it would block YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe.

“Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, we are blocking YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe, effective immediately,” reads a tweet from the official Google Europe account. “It will take time for our systems to fully establish themselves. Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take prompt action.”

Google, the video giant’s parent company, did not immediately respond to questions about how many YouTube channels would be blocked. RT’s main YouTube channel has over 4.6 million subscribers, while Sputnik has over 300,000 subscribers.

Facebook’s decision came a day after Meta announced that it had restricted access to several accounts, including Russian state-controlled media, in Ukraine after a request from the local government. Meta came under more pressure to take action against these outlets for spreading propaganda and misrepresentations after Russia invaded Ukraine.

On Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a Tweeter that the executive branch of the EU is developing tools to ban “toxic and harmful disinformation” published by RT and Sputnik and their affiliates. the EU is an economic and political union of 27 countries, including France, Germany and Spain.

Following Facebook’s decision on Tuesday, RT took issue with unspecified comments by European government officials and actions by social media platforms, with its deputy editor saying in a statement that no one had reported specific evidence of lies appearing on his site during the Ukrainian crisis. In its own statement, Sputnik’s press branch called the restrictions an “information war against Russian media”.

RT and Sputnik are on other social media sites, including Twitter and TikTok. A TikTok spokeswoman said EU users would not see content from RT and Sputnik accounts. Twitter began labeling state-affiliated media, but a spokeswoman said the company had ‘nothing to share at this time’ when asked if the company also planned to restrict RT and Sputnik .

Meta’s rare move also raises questions about whether Russia will further restrict access to Facebook and Instagram. Ukrainians have pressured Facebook to remove access to Russia’s main social network and Instagram, but Clegg said on Sunday those platforms were also used by protesters and as a source of independent news. “The Russian government is already throttling our platform to prevent these activities. We believe disabling our services would silence important expression at a crucial time,” Clegg said in a tweet on Sunday.

Russia said last week it was partially restricting access to Facebook after the social network refused to stop fact-checking and labeling content posted on Facebook by four Russian state media outlets. Russian telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor alleges that Facebook violated “basic human rights” by restricting the country’s state-controlled media.

Facebook and YouTube have also banned ads from Russian state media. Twitter also said last week that it was temporarily suspending ads in Ukraine and Russia.

On Sunday, Meta also announced that it had taken down a network of around 40 fake Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages and groups from Russia and Ukraine. Meta said some of these accounts pretended to be news publishers and ran fake news websites and posted articles that included “claims that the West is betraying Ukraine and Ukraine is a failed state. “. Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, has set up a special operations center with experts who speak Ukrainian and Russian to help monitor its platform.

GameSpot’s Carrie Mihalcik contributed to this report.

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