Facebook, Apple, Twitter and YouTube under pressure because of the Russian-Ukrainian war

“We need your support – in 2022 modern technology may be the best answer to tanks, multiple rocket launchers…and missiles,” he wrote.

He also tweeted early Saturday that he had contacted Facebook parent company Meta, Google and Netflix, asking them to suspend services in Russia. He called on YouTube to block “propaganda” Russian channels.

Senator Mark R. Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on Twitter and Facebook parent company Meta to “take a tough stance” against Russia-linked information operations. The Virginia Democrat warned that as the invasion progresses, “we can expect to see an escalation in Russia’s use of both overt and covert means to confuse the conflict and promote disinformation narratives that weaken the global response to these unlawful acts.”

And on Twitter, users called on their followers to report a YouTube channel with more than 22,000 subscribers that shared videos that appeared to reveal Ukrainian troop movements. YouTube did not respond to a request for comment on the channel or video.

Tech companies have long positioned themselves as beacons of free speech and democratic standards. But the war in Ukraine is testing these values ​​in new ways. From the halls of Congress to the Twitter feeds of pro-Ukrainian activists, companies are facing growing demand for a tougher line on Russia, which itself is notorious for using popular technology to influence geopolitics – most infamous during the 2016 US presidential election.

“There is a growing sense that they have a moral obligation to ensure their sites are not exploited in times of crisis,” said Karen Kornbluh, director of the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative. at the German Marshall Fund, a think tank. “The Russian playbook is clear – and companies are under pressure not to wait to act against fake accounts or malicious influence activities until they are used to interfere with humanitarian aid or inflame conflict. .”

When President Biden announced sanctions against Russia on high-tech imports on Thursday, he said they would “undermine” Russia’s “ability to compete in a 21st century high-tech economy.” But the sanctions were largely focused on semiconductors and other high-tech tools that benefit Russia’s defense sector. According to a Commerce Department statement, consumer communication devices are largely exempt.

But policymakers, journalists, technologists and human rights advocates are now pressuring tech companies to act more aggressively.

Social media platforms in particular have come under scrutiny for their role in promoting Russian state media.

In a letter to Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, which also owns YouTube, Warner accused the platforms of profiting from “misinformation”. He wrote that his staff discovered that YouTube was running ads on videos about the Ukrainian conflict from RT, Sputnik and Tass, all Russian state media. He also wrote that Google’s ad network supports Russian state media by running ads about Sputnik and Tass. He said ads from “unintentional” brands like Best Buy, Allbirds and Progressive were served by Google on the webpages of those outlets. Those companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Others called for RT and those affiliated with it to be banned from major social media sites, and wondered why RT’s editor was allowed to spread lies on Twitter. Twitter Labels the accounts of state media and their senior executives, and it does not allow state media to pay to promote tweets.

“It’s appropriate for American companies to choose sides in geopolitical disputes, and it should be an easy choice,” he added. tweeted Alex Stamos, former Facebook security chief and now director of the Stanford Internet Observatory.

Amid heightened scrutiny, Twitter tweeted on Friday that it was “actively monitoring” risks associated with Ukraine, and it temporarily suspended ads in Russia and Ukraine to ensure ads don’t harm news. keys on security.

Cameron Njaa, a spokesperson for Reddit, who was also named by Warner in its call for increased awareness of Russian propaganda, said the company was “extending resources” to moderators in “affected areas” and working in working closely with governments and other platforms to “stay on top of any malicious or inauthentic activity.

On Friday night, Meta announced it would ban Russian state media from running ads or monetizing its platform anywhere in the world, and said it would continue to apply fact-checking labels to posts. Russian state media. Earlier in the day, Nick Clegg, head of global affairs at Meta, tweeted that Russian authorities restricted the use of the company’s services after Facebook tagged and verified posts from four state-owned media outlets. Clegg said Russian authorities ordered the company to stop fact-checking and labeling, but it refused.

Alphabet, TikTok and Telegram did not respond to requests for comment.

Tech companies have previously bowed to pressure from Russia’s internet censor. In September, Apple and Google removed an opposition voting app from their app stores at the start of voting in the country’s parliamentary elections, after Russia’s censorship agency accused the companies of interfering in the political affairs of the country. The agency threatened fines and possible criminal prosecution.

Amid growing pressure on the platforms, internet freedom advocates have warned that tech platforms are a critical source of independent information for Russians, and that limiting access to these platforms could leave people than state propaganda that incites war with Ukraine.

“Big tech companies have a responsibility to their Ukrainian and Russian users to respect their rights to freedom of expression and access to information, especially in times of war and political crisis,” said Natalia Krapiva , technology counsel at Access Now, a nonprofit that advocates for internet freedom.

But she said tech companies still need to take precautions to ensure their platforms aren’t abused.

“However, they also have a responsibility to keep their users safe and to identify and respond to any misinformation campaigns that may lead to violence and abuse,” she said.

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