Facebook, Twitter, TikTok: the Social Web defies Putin

Facebook, Twitter, TikTok: the Social Web defies Putin

 

Russia’s war is not going well on the internet either. Vladimir Putin wants to control the flow of information, but social media gets in his way. And they coordinate humanitarian aid. […]

Putin’s war on Ukraine is being followed all over the world, especially on social media. That is why the Kremlin leaves no stone unturned to spread its own truth and influence the reporting in this way. But Meta (formerly Facebook), Google / Youtube, Microsoft, TikTok, Netflix and Twitter no longer allow the one–sided reporting launched by Russia – also due to an order from the EU.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had announced on Sunday that the Russian state channels Sputnik and RT (= Russia Today) aimed at foreign countries could no longer “spread their lies to justify Putin’s war”. The EU instructed the social networks to remove corresponding information offers. The EU will also commission the development of new tools to prevent disinformation from these and other sources.

The Russian authorities’ confrontation with Meta (formerly Facebook) had already begun earlier. On February 25, the Russian communications regulator demanded that the social media group stop fact-checking the accounts of four state-sponsored media sites on Facebook. The company refused. Russia then restricted access to Facebook for its civilian population.

Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs at Meta, wrote in a statement: “Yesterday, Russian authorities asked us to stop fact-checking and labeling the contents of these four accounts. We refused. As a result, they have now announced that they will stop providing our services to Russian citizens.” According to NPR, Meta has even set up an “operations center” to keep an eye on Russia’s activities on its platforms.

As Mashable reports, Google is also getting in the way of the Russians. For example, the video platform YouTube blocks state-sponsored advertising from Russia and also restricts video recommendations for Russian channels. Youtube has also taken hundreds of channels and thousands of videos off the internet in recent days because they would have violated the company’s own guidelines.

In Ukraine, videos launched from Russia can no longer be seen at all. Here, apparently, Google is acting at the request of the Ukrainian government. In addition, the Group has restricted the information available via Google Maps in Ukraine. No real-time traffic data is displayed any more, nor is there any data on crowds.

According to the Reuters news agency, Google parent Alphabet has also banned the downloading of the RT app on Ukrainian territory. RT is a foreign television program founded by the Russian state in 2005, which has not been allowed to be broadcast at least in Germany since the beginning of February due to a lack of media licensing.

Government-launched ads have been banned on Twitter since 2019, although RT still has an account there. In response to the Ukraine conflict, the platform does not show ads either in Ukraine or in Russia, regardless of the source. Twitter said it wanted to “ensure that critical information for public safety takes priority, and is not distracted from it by ads, for example.” In the meantime, Twitter is also only usable to a limited extent for Russian citizens. Twitter has also taken measures to increase security and protect the accounts of high-ranking journalists, activists and government officials.

Microsoft also no longer displays state-sponsored RT and Sputnik content in its newsfeed and on MSN. The broadcasters will also no longer be able to place ads on Microsoft’s advertising network. The software giant is also making the RT news apps disappear from the Windows App Store. However, the search engine Bing should continue to display links to RT and Sputnik. However, Microsoft wants to rank the corresponding search results worse. Just make sure that the links are only displayed if someone clearly has the intention to visit these pages.

TikTok also strives for neutrality. Even before the official invasion in the early morning hours of February 24, videos of Russian military vehicles and weapons on their way to the Ukrainian border could be seen there. Thus, observers and civilians became aware of the threat at an early stage. Russian TikTokker Niki Proshin posted a video showing a war protest in Russia.

TikTok also blocks the Russian state channels Sputnik and RT, which can no longer reach EU citizens on this channel. A spokesperson told Business Insider: “We are monitoring the situation closely and have increased our resources to respond to trends and remove hurtful content as soon as possible”. This applies, for example, to misinformation and depictions glorifying violence. TikTok is also working with independent fact-checking organizations to remain “a safe and authentic place”. CNN’s journalists are also constantly checking viral videos to make sure that there is no manipulative intent behind them.

Actually, according to Russian law, Netflix would be obliged to offer a whole range of free state TV channels in the country. The Vitrina-TV Law obliges service providers with more than 100,000 subscribers in Russia to broadcast a total of 20 public channels. The national regulator Roskomnadzor had only classified Netflix as such a service in December. However, the obligation is not yet in force, and so Netflix refuses to broadcast the channels in view of “the current situation”. Among other things, Channel One, NTV or Spa can no longer be seen in Russia, at least in this way.

The most popular messenger in Russia and Ukraine is Telegram, but the creator of the competing app Signal, Moxie Marlinspike, warned against its use. Telegram’s cloud-based nature makes the system vulnerable to threats from Russia. If you don’t want to leave Telegram, at least use the “secret messages” function, which would provide more privacy and security. Signal’s messaging service promises end-to-end encryption and is widely regarded by cybersecurity experts as the most secure private messaging app.

At the same time, social media is getting involved to raise money for the victims of the Ukraine war. On February 26, the Government of Ukraine announced on Twitter that it was accepting donations in the form of cryptocurrencies. To date, more than $9.9 million has been raised, according to The Verge. The country accepts Bitcoin, Ethereum and Tether, while decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) have formed, which can also accept other forms of crypto donations. Apparently, citizens in Ukraine have reported that their credit cards are no longer working, which is why they are switching to cryptocurrencies.

Important players in the crypto community support the country, including the Russian-born Ethereum inventor Vitalik Buterin. He tweeted that the “invasion is a crime against the Ukrainian and Russian people”. Nadya Tolokonnikova, a member of the Russian performance art group Pussy Riot, founded UkraineDAO to raise funds. In addition, a group of NFT and Web3 artists launched RELI3F to create another hub for crypto donations to Ukraine.

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