Stance on the accounts of several Moscow-backed news outlets amid the invasion of Ukraine. Russias communications regulator Roskomnadzor accused the network of “censorship” and violating “the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens”. Facebook said it had refused to stop fact-checking and labeling content from state-owned news organizations. The move came a day after Russia launched its attack on Ukraine.
It is unclear what the regulator restrictions mean, or to what extent Facebook’s parent company Meta’s other platforms – WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram – are affected. The regulator had demanded Facebook lift the restrictions it placed on Thursday on state news agency RIA, state TV channel Zvezda, and pro-Kremlin news sites Lenta.Ru and Gazeta.Ru. It said that Meta had “ignored” these requests. Sir Nick Clegg, vice-president of global affairs at Meta, said Russian authorities “ordered us to stop the independent fact-checking and labeling” the outlet’s content.” We refused,” he said.
But he made clear he wanted Russians to continue to use Metas platforms. “Ordinary Russians are using our apps to express themselves and organize for action”, Sir Nick said, and the company wants “them to continue to make their voices heard”. Many state-owned media outlets in Russia have painted a largely positive picture of Russian military advances in Ukraine, calling the invasion a “special military operation” that had been forced on Moscow.
On Thursday Meta said it had set up a “special operations center” to monitor content about the conflict in Ukraine. Russia has its own Facebook equivalents, VK and Odnoklassniki, but Facebook is also popular in the country – as is Meta-owned Instagram. On Friday, US Senator Mark Warner said Facebook, YouTube, and other social media services had “a clear responsibility to ensure that your products are not used to facilitate human rights abuses”.
Meta has been under pressure to label misinformation – and has been working with outside fact-checkers, including Reuters. Moscow has also increased pressure on domestic media, threatening to block reports that contain what it describes as “false information” regarding its invasion of Ukraine. Twitter also told the BBC that its safety and integrity teams were “disrupting attempts to amplify false and misleading information and to advance the speed and scale of our enforcement”.