Meta, the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, has blocked Russian state media in the European Union. That reports Meta spokesperson Andy Stone to The Verge. These are pages from RT (formerly Russia Today ) and Sputnik. Google is also taking action. The company announced on Twitter on Tuesday that it would immediately block YouTube channels related to RT and Sputnik in Europe.
Channels spread fake news
Meta CEO Nick Clegg said on Twitter that the decision preceded requests from multiple governments and the European Union to crack down on Russian state-controlled media. “Given the exceptional situation, we will restrict access to RT and Sputnik across the EU,” the chief executive said.
The Russian news channel RT and the Sputnik news agency would be banned to prevent the spread of Russian propaganda. Multiple Russian state media are spreading fake news about the war in Ukraine.
Blocking the YouTube channels related to RT and Sputnik will start immediately, according to Google. The company says it may take some time before the systems comply with the new policy. “Our teams are constantly monitoring the situation to take action where necessary,” Google said on Twitter.
Measures and IT army against Russian propaganda
Meta previously blocked a number of Russian media accounts. This was at the request of the Ukrainian government. The blockades only applied in Ukraine. Google also responded to a call from the Ukrainian government. The company pulled RT’s Android app from its app store in Ukraine.
At the end of last month, Meta already took down a network that spread fake news in Ukraine. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the American tech giant says it has seen a large increase in accounts bombarding users with fake news.
Ukraine itself also actively counters news channels with untruths about the war in Ukraine. At the end of February, the country set up a so-called IT army. The military operates through a Telegram channel that anyone can join. The channel calls for cyber attacks and DDoS attacks on Russian websites. The IT army targets, among other things, YouTube news channels that spread untruths.
Internet censorship in Russia
In Russia, under President Putin, there has been strict internet censorship for years. Every year, officials blocked access to hundreds of thousands of websites. The censorship mainly targets the opposition of the regime; opponents are dealt with with a heavy hand and, partly due to internet censorship, are silenced. The country’s propaganda machine, controlled by media watchdog Roskomnadzor, controls domestic coverage.
The spread of fake news was already clearly visible during the corona crisis. According to the EU, Russia was conducting a disinformation campaign about the pandemic at the time. This is also the case with the current war in Ukraine.
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