U.S. Social Media Giants Move to Restrict Russian State Ads

U.S. social media companies have taken fresh steps to restrict Russian state disinformation over the war in Ukraine.

Facebook will not run ads from Russian state media following a spat with Moscow over fact checking content on the social media platform which is playing a key information role in the war in Ukraine.

Twitter has announced it would pause advertisements in Ukraine and Russia and told Newsweek it had taken measures against misinformation surrounding the conflict.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's security policy head, said that social media giant, whose parent company is Meta, would prohibit the ability of Russian state media to make money on the platform.

"We are now prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetising on our platform anywhere in the world," Gleicher tweeted.

Gleicher said Facebook would also "continue to apply labels to additional Russian state media" in changes which have already started and "will continue into the weekend."

"We are closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine and will keep sharing steps we're taking to protect people on our platform," he added in a follow up tweet.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, social media is important for citizens to access information but there will be a sensitivity among tech giants about the spread of misinformation, in particular coming from Moscow.

Twitter announced on Friday it was also "temporarily pausing advertisements in Ukraine and Russia to ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don't detract from it."

It said it was "actively monitoring for risks associated with the conflict in Ukraine, including identifying and disrupting attempts to amplify false and misleading information."

Earlier on Friday, Meta said it had refused an order by the Russian authorities to stop the fact checking and labeling of content posted on Facebook by four Russian state-owned media organizations.

Russia's state communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it had asked Facebook to lift the restrictions on state news agency RIA Novosti, state TV channel Zvezda, and news sites Lenta.ru and Gazeta.ru.

Nick Clegg, Meta's vice president of global affairs said that "ordinary Russians" were using Meta's apps "to express themselves and organize for action."

"We want them to continue to make their voices heard, share what's happening, and organize through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger," he tweeted.

However, Roskomnadzor accused the social media giant of "the violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, as well as the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens."

It added that in response, it would "partially restrict access in the form of slowing down" access to the platform.

When contacted for comment, Facebook referred Newsweek to Gleicher's tweets and said it had released a feature in Ukraine that gives users increased security for their profiles.

It also said it had set up a special operations center to "fight the spread of misinformation and labeling content from state-controlled media and content that fact checkers have rated false."

However, journalist Hinnerk Feldwisch-Drentrup said that the move by Facebook to block ads was "a little late," tweeting that "first a war had to break out.

"Already 1.5 years ago @Facebook said it'll block ads from state media - but only those targeted to people in the US," he wrote.

When contacted for comment, a Twitter spokesperson directed Newsweek to its existing policy on state affiliated media advertising and promotion.

It said it labeled state-affiliated Russian accounts and was "proactively monitoring for emerging narratives that violate the Twitter rules". It said it had a Twitter Safety thread in English, Ukrainian, and Russian "detailing best practices around digital safety and how to control your account during times of conflict."

Newsweek has contacted Roskomnadzor for comment.

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The Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a Meta logo on February 03, 2022 in Paris, France. The social media giant is prohibiting Russian state media from running ads on its platforms due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.