Facebook, YouTube and Twitter limit ads about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Updated February 26, 2022 4:36 PM ET
Facebook and YouTube block Russian state media from running ads on their platforms, while Twitter suspends all advertising in Ukraine and Russia, as pressure mounts on tech platforms to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine .
Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Facebook, tweeted Friday: “We now prohibit Russian state media from serving ads or monetizing on our platform anywhere in the world.”
On Saturday, Google-owned YouTube announced it was also suspending several Russian state media channels, including RT, from making money from ads. Additionally, the online video platform limits recommendations to these channels and blocks them entirely in Ukraine at the request of the Ukrainian government, according to a YouTube spokesperson.
Late Saturday, Google said it was “suspending” the ability of Russian state-funded media to also make money from Google’s advertising services.
“We are actively monitoring new developments and will take additional action if necessary,” Google spokesman Michael Aciman said.
Twitter, which banned advertising from state-controlled media in 2019, has also taken action, saying On Friday, it was temporarily suspending all ads in Ukraine and Russia “to ensure that critical public safety information is high and that ads do not harm them.”
Russian regulator accuses Facebook of censoring state media
The ad suspensions come as U.S. tech companies are squeezed by the Kremlin’s continued efforts to tighten its grip on communication and stifle dissent.
On Friday, Russia’s communications regulator accused Facebook of censoring the official accounts of Zvezda, a TV channel run by Russia’s Defense Ministry, state news agency RIA Novosti and two news sites, Lenta.ru and Gazeta.ru. In retaliation for what the regulator described as violations of Russian law and human rights, it said it was limiting access to Facebook in the country.
In response to the claim, Meta’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said Russian authorities have ordered the company to stop labeling and verifying posts from four Russian state media outlets.
“We declined. As a result, they announced that they would restrict the use of our services,” Clegg said in a declaration. “Ordinary Russians use our apps to speak out and organize to take action. We want them to continue to raise their voices, share what’s happening and organize through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.”
It’s unclear what the Kremlin’s restrictions on the world’s biggest social network will entail or if they will also apply to Meta’s other apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp. Although Facebook does not disclose how many users it has in Russia, a survey last year found that 9% of respondents said they use the social network and 31% said they use Instagram.
Saturday, Twitter said that it was “restricted for certain people in Russia” and that it was “working to keep our service safe and accessible”.
Last year, Russia restricted access to Twitter after the company allegedly ignored requests to remove certain posts and threatened to take similar action against Facebook and Google. In December, a Russian court fined Meta 2 billion rubles, or about $27 million, for failing to remove content that Russia says violates its laws.
Pressure is mounting in the US for Silicon Valley to clamp down on Russia
Silicon Valley companies are also under pressure at home to limit the spread of misleading information and propaganda about the conflict and to take a tougher stance against Russia.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., this week sent letters to Meta, Twitter, Google parent Alphabet, TikTok, Reddit and Telegram urging them to protect their platforms from Russian influence operations.
“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,” wrote Warner.
Meta has created a special operations center to monitor the conflict in Ukraine and remove content that violates its rules. Twitter said it is to “proactively review” tweets for manipulation, identify false and misleading information, and protect the high-level accounts of journalists, activists, officials, and government agencies. The two companies have also released tips for users to protect their accounts from hacking and secure their privacy.
YouTube says it has removed hundreds of channels and thousands of videos in recent days for violating its policies, including rules against “coordinated deceptive practices”.
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Corrected: February 25, 2022 at 10:00 p.m. MST
A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a statement accusing Facebook of violating Russian law to Nick Clegg. The statement came from the Russian communications regulator.