Facebook, YouTube and TikTok asked by four House committee chairs to archive war crimes evidence

On Thursday, four high-ranking congressional Democrats sent formal demands to the CEOs of YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook’s parent company Meta, asking them to archive content that could be used as evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

“We write to encourage Meta to take steps to preserve and archive content shared on its platforms that could potentially be used as evidence as the U.S. government and international human rights and accountability monitors investigate the crimes. war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocities in Ukraine,” said the letter sent to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The letters were signed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., chair of the oversight committee; Rep. Gregory Meeks, DN.Y., chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., chair of the National Security Subcommittee; and Representative William Keating, D-Mass, Chair of the Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, Environment and Cyber.

They specifically ask social media companies “to flag or flag content as containing potential evidence of war crimes and other atrocities.”

YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The request comes as evidence of potential Russian war crimes continues to pile up on social media. On Wednesday, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine tried a Russian soldier for war crimes for the first time since the invasion began in February — the lawsuits were announced on Facebook.

Although letters from lawmakers lack the subpoena power that would allow them to request law enforcement, social media companies have always complied with requests like this.

Last week, Facebook’s automated systems briefly blocked hashtags linked to civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. Meta spokesperson Andy Stone told Euronews that the company “acted quickly to unblock the hashtags” after realizing the flaw in their automated systems.

The letters to tech companies note that while social networks may have “rightly implemented graphic content policies to protect their users,” an archive of images is needed for possible future war crimes trials.

“We are concerned that the automated systems and processes that social media platforms often use to remove graphic and violent posts could lead to the loss of important content containing evidence of potential human rights abuses and war crimes” , we read in the letters.

Letters quoting a 2021 report from the University of California at the Berkeley Center for Human Rights which revealed that human rights investigators are “increasingly losing the race to identify and preserve information that may have legitimate human rights and historical value before it is deleted”, and implore companies to create “digital lockers” to securely store evidence of potential war crimes.

A report by the nonprofit Institute for Strategic Dialogue noted that conspiracy theories questioning the existence of the Bucha massacre were shared more in the second week of April on Facebook than posts claiming the massacre actually took place.

The congressional letters also called for additional measures from tech companies, including insisting that social networks “archive and preserve any content related to the war in Ukraine that may provide evidence of war crimes or human rights abuses.” man” and “engage and coordinate with the international community”. human rights monitors and civil society organizations examining human rights violations in Ukraine.

“Images and videos of indiscriminate killings and other unspeakable violence are widely shared on social media platforms, exposing disinformation being pushed by the Russian government and creating a historical record that could be key to ensuring those responsible are brought to justice. justice,” Maloney said in an emailed statement.

“It is essential that the companies operating these platforms find a way to maintain a safe environment for their users, while preserving content that could potentially be used as evidence of war crimes by Russian forces.”

Lynch called the demands an important step to “ensure that President Putin and his enablers are held accountable for the atrocities that Russian forces have committed against the people of Ukraine.”

“Given the tension social media companies face between removing material that violates their graphic content policies and preserving evidence that could be used in future war crimes prosecutions, it is incumbent upon these platforms to start thinking now, not later, about how they can ensure that content isn’t lost forever once it’s deleted,” Lynch said in an emailed statement.

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