Meta to demote content from Russian state-backed media on Facebook and Instagram platforms

Meta is taking a range of actions to limit news spread by Russian state-backed media outlets.
Written by Jonathan Greig, Contributor

Meta announced on Tuesday that it plans to demote content from Russian state-backed media outlets on Facebook and Instagram as part of a wide range of efforts taken in light of the recent invasion of Ukraine. 

Former UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who now is in charge of global affairs at Meta, told reporters that Facebook does not want to outright ban any content, instead of hoping to provide context or other information for users.  

"I can also confirm we are demoting content from Facebook pages and Instagram accounts from Russian state-controlled media outlets and is making it harder to find across our platforms. We've also begun to demote posts with links to Russian state-controlled media websites on Facebook. Over the next few days, we will label these links and provide more information before people share them or click on them to let them know that they lead to state-controlled media websites. We plan on putting similar measures in place on Instagram," Clegg explained. 

"At the end of the day, the most powerful antidote to propaganda is not only restricting circulation but circulating the answers to it. And that is why we always want to strike the right balance to allow the flow of counter-speech to continue on our services."

Clegg said that teams at Facebook and Instagram are expanding their fact-checking apparatus and responding to requests from governments about misinformation as well as disinformation. 

Clegg noted that the Russian government is throttling Facebook and Instagram to make it more difficult for Russian citizens to see certain content. But he also explained that the company is facing pressure from governments across the world to limit the spread of content from Russian state-backed media sources.

"We're a company, not a government, so we're working closely with governments and responding to their requests to combat disinformation and harmful propaganda. We've established an operations center staffed by experts from across the company, including native Russian and Ukrainian speakers who are monitoring the platform around the clock, allowing us to respond to issues in real-time," Clegg said. 

"At the request of the government of Ukraine and governments in the European Union, we have restricted access to Russia Today and Sputnik in Ukraine and the EU. We've also expanded our third-party fact-checking capacity in Russian and Ukrainian and are providing more context and transparency around the content shared by the Russian state-controlled media outlets, prohibiting ads for Russian state media and demonetizing their accounts."

Russia Today deputy editor-in-chief Anna Belkina slammed the measures, questioning how the actions could be taken without evidence being provided.

Meta announced on Monday that it was restricting access to several accounts, including some belonging to Russian state-media organizations, in Ukraine.

Clegg also said earlier this week that Meta had introduced new security features to keep people in Ukraine safe, including giving users the tool to lock their Facebook profile in one step, temporarily removing the ability to view and search the friends lists of Facebook accounts in Ukraine, and rolling out notifications for screenshots and activating the disappearing messages feature on Messenger.

Twitter is instituting similar measures, including pausing advertisements in Ukraine and Russia "to ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don't detract from it."

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