Facebook faces an easier content battle in Russia’s war on Ukraine

  • Facebook has faced simpler content moderation decisions over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
  • Russia’s invasion received universal condemnation, creating less confusion about how Facebook should act against misinformation and propaganda.
  • One expert told Insider that more one-sided scrutiny of the war means fewer cries of censorship.

Facebook and its parent company Meta are no strangers to criticism, including scrutiny of how it controls and moderates posts shared on its platform.

Content moderation on internet platforms has increasingly become a weapon in political talking points in recent months, as right-wing pundits decry that companies like Facebook censor conservative voices on everything from the pandemic from COVID-19 to the divisive 2020 US presidential election. Meanwhile, liberals say social media platforms are not doing enough to stop the spread of misinformation and crack down on hate speech.

But Russia’s war on Ukraine could present one of the simplest moderation decisions Facebook has faced – and one that appears to unite party lines – thanks to the universal condemnation of the unprovoked attack carried out. by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to Ari Lightman, professor of digital media at Carnegie Mellon and social media expert, there was more partisanship when it came to topics like the pandemic, with many conservatives castigating the disease and related safety measures as overhyped. and serving a liberal agenda.

“Pandemic misinformation or election misinformation catered to their own specific ideology,” Lightman told Insider. “He was sending them information that they felt was right and appropriate, even if it was wrong. It feels very different.”

Russia’s war is much more black and white, Lightman said, which is why we won’t see as many cries of censorship as Facebook cracks down on content about the conflict.

Russia has waged a disinformation campaign to cast Ukraine as the aggressor in the war and not the other way around. As Politico reported, some Russian state-backed media outlets have posted articles on Facebook and other sites containing false claims. A Russian TV presenter even protested during a live broadcast against the war.

Facebook took action by verifying the posts and then restricting the accounts of these outlets in Ukraine, a request Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reportedly made personally to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO , Sheryl Sandberg.

Russia alleged that Meta censored news outlets, so it blocked access to Facebook and Instagram within its country’s borders, and a Russian court found Meta guilty of extremist activity.

It’s part of a full-fledged censorship lawsuit designed to keep control of the narrative around the war in Russian hands, Lightman said.

“It’s Russia’s playbook,” Lightman said. “That’s how they spread misinformation. And if they can’t do it in conjunction with Facebook or one of those open channels like Twitter, they’ll try to do it individually through Telegram or one of those point-to-point mechanisms.”

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