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Meta, TikTok and Twitter Step Up Efforts to Combat Russian Misinformation About Ukraine

The social media giants are doubling down with increased resources, including fact-checking, to stem ”harmful misinformation and promotion of violence“

The social media platforms Meta, TikTok and Twitter say they are taking strong action to stem the tide as recent news reports detail a new flood of online misinformation by groups and individuals affiliated with the Russian government.

According to The Associated Press, analysts at several research organizations noted “a sharp increase in online activity” by groups affiliated with Russia. The report said the activity was indicative of of Russia’s longtime strategy of “using social media and state-run outlets to galvanize domestic support while seeking to destabilize the Western alliance.”

Politico reported that “Russia-backed media reports falsely claiming that the Ukrainian government is conducting genocide of civilians ran unchecked and unchallenged on Twitter and on Facebook. Videos from the Russian government — including speeches from Vladimir Putin — on YouTube received dollars from Western advertisers. Unverified TikTok videos of alleged real-time battles were instead historical footage, including doctored conflict-zone images and sounds.”

In response to such reports, the three major social platforms have all issued statements seeking to reassure users that every effort is being made to control the flood of misinformation.

Said a TikTok spokesperson in an e-mailed statement to TheWrap: “We continue to closely monitor the situation, with increased resources to respond to emerging trends and remove violative content, including harmful misinformation and promotion of violence. We also partner with independent fact-checking organizations to further aid our efforts to help TikTok remain a safe and authentic place.”

On Feb. 26, with continuing updates last entered on Sunday Feb. 27, Meta posted on its press site that the company had taken a list of steps to combat misinformation on its platform still commonly referred to as Facebook. The list is available on the site in both Russian and Ukrainian translations:

  • We’ve established a special operations center staffed by experts from across the company, including native Russian and Ukrainian speakers, who are monitoring the platform around the clock, allowing us to respond to issues in real time. 
  • We’ve added several safety features in Ukraine and Russia, including the ability for people to lock their Facebook profile, removing the ability to view and search friends lists, and additional tools on Messenger.
  • We’re taking extensive steps to fight the spread of misinformation by expanding our third-party fact-checking capacity in Russian and Ukrainian. We’re also providing more transparency around state-controlled media outlets, prohibiting ads from Russian state media and demonetizing their accounts.

Meta also said in its statement that the company had taken down a network “run by people in Ukraine and Russia targeting Ukraine for violating our policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior. They ran websites posing as independent news entities and created fake personas across many social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram, Odnoklassniki and VK,” the statement said.

Twitter Inc. said in a statement that it plans to start labeling all links from state-backed Russian outlets shared on its platform. As part of its previous policy Twitter had added a label only to accounts linked to national governments, including as RT and Sputnik. Twitter’s statement said that the “overwhelming majority” of content from state-backed Russian media — more than 45,000 tweets a day — is being tweeted by individuals rather than by institutions.”

In the statement Twitter added that it would be applying a similar policy to state-backed media outlets from other countries “in the coming weeks.” Twitter did not immediately respond for a request for further comment from TheWrap.

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