Tech firms fail to tackle Russian propaganda – EU.
Introduction: A recent report by the EU Commission has criticized social media companies for failing to effectively combat “large-scale” Russian disinformation campaigns following the invasion of Ukraine. The report highlights the growth of Kremlin-backed accounts’ reach and influence in 2023 and suggests that Russian disinformation has increased on X (formerly Twitter) since Elon Musk acquired the company. In this blog post, we delve into the report’s key findings and the challenges social media platforms face in addressing this issue.
Key Findings of the EU Commission’s Report:
Growing Reach and Influence: The report notes that the reach and influence of Kremlin-backed accounts have expanded in 2023 despite efforts to counter disinformation campaigns. This growth is particularly significant in the context of the Ukraine crisis.
Impact of Twitter’s Safety Standards: The study attributes part of the rise in Russian disinformation to dismantling of Twitter’s safety standards. This suggests that changes to Twitter’s policies may have inadvertently contributed to the proliferation of disinformation.
Meta’s Platforms: The report highlights that pro-Kremlin accounts continue to reach the largest audiences on Meta’s platforms. The audience size for Kremlin-backed accounts on Telegram has more than tripled, indicating the shifting landscape of disinformation dissemination.
Inconsistent Application of Terms of Service: The report underscores that no platform consistently applied its terms of service in several Eastern European languages, revealing challenges in content moderation across multiple regions.
EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA): The DSA, which introduced stricter rules for online platforms, became operational earlier this month. The report suggests that if the DSA had been in place, social media companies may have breached their legal duties, potentially leading to fines.
Elon Musk’s Involvement: The report also references a tweet from Elon Musk on 9 April, in which he announced that his platform (X) would no longer “limit” Kremlin-run accounts. Musk defended his decision, stating that censorship should not be the answer. This move was seen as a departure from restrictions imposed on such statements.
Challenges Faced by Social Media Companies: The report underscores the difficulties faced by social media companies in combating disinformation, mainly when dealing with state-backed actors. Balancing free speech with the need to address disinformation remains a complex challenge for these platforms.
Conclusion: The EU Commission’s report highlights the ongoing struggle to combat Russian disinformation on social media platforms. While the DSA represents a step towards stricter regulation, addressing the issue of disinformation requires constant vigilance and adaptability. Social media companies must continue to refine their policies and practices to combat large-scale disinformation campaigns effectively.