On Friday morning, as Russia continued its unprovoked attacks on Ukraine, its government also launched an assault on Facebook, announcing that it would begin partially restricting access to the social media network in Russia, where there are an estimated 70 million users, because Facebook allegedly restricted pro-Russian news sites. Later that day, Facebook pushed back, writing that Russian authorities ordered us to stop the independent fact-checking and labeling of content and that the company would continue to support ordinary Russians using our app to express themselves and organize for action. On Saturday morning, Twitter also confirmed that its app is being restricted for some people in Russia.
Now Facebook and Twitter find themselves in a predicament thats become increasingly common for social media networks in certain countries: Theyre facing the demands of an authoritarian government thats pressuring them to censor content it doesnt like, and to allow propaganda to run unchecked. If they dont follow the Kremlins orders, they risk being booted off of the local internet entirely. In some cases, refusing could put some of their local employees at risk in the past, the Russian government has threatened to arrest tech employees based in the country when disputing with their employers. These situations threaten to fracture the way people communicate across the world.
Theres no simple solution to such a standoff. For the people living under these governments, losing access to major social media platforms can cut off a key way they communicate and resist their own government and its propaganda. In Russia, for example, residents who oppose the invasion of Ukraine have been using Facebook, Twitter, and other major social media platforms to distribute news about the attacks and to coordinate anti-war actions and protests.
I think were heading toward an inevitable break in the global internet, said Emerson Brooking, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank who studies social media.
Social media in the 2000s was developed under a vision of a shared, open, and global internet, which required major tech platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to largely follow the political speech rules of whatever countries they operated in. That meant that tech companies particularly in places outside the US and Europe sometimes took down politically controversial speech at the behest of government orders.
Last September, Apple and Google deleted a voting app created by supporters of Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, after the Russian government reportedly threatened to arrest the tech giants employees if the companies left the app up in their stores.
In every case, its an implicit negotiation between companies and an authoritarian government, Brooking told Recode.
But sometimes that implicit negotiation can break down, as it did last March when the Kremlin intentionally slowed down Twitter in Russia after warning social media platforms to take down content supporting Navalny after his arrest. Were seeing these breakdowns happen more often.
A truly open, global internet never existed in China, where all US social media companies are officially banned under its Great Firewall that controls what citizens can access online. It no longer fully exists in India, where Twitter and Facebook have taken down content at the demand of Prime Minister Narendra Modis government, which began censoring political dissenters with increasing vigor during the pandemic. And now, it may not exist much longer in Russia, at a critical moment in global history.
What happens next in Russia may continue to splinter the open internet.
Some politicians and online speech experts say its important for mainstream social media platforms to try to continue operating in Russia, while still moderating blatant misinformation and restricting propaganda pushed by Russian state media. Thats because social media platforms are giving Russians who disagree with the Kremlin a way to make their voices heard, and theyre offering Russians a way to get information that Russias state-run media organizations wont share.
Widely circulated tweets showed Russian protesters chanting against the war this week in Moscow. A popular St. Petersburg rapper canceled his concert and posted an anti-war message to his over 2 million Instagram followers on Thursday. And some children of Russian senior state officials and oligarchs have turned to Instagram to voice their opposition to the invasion.
Its always a balance to make sure that Russians who want the real story or at least the story as we see it still have access to social media platforms, European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager told Recode on Friday. But propaganda shouldnt have a place.
In the next few days, its expected that Russias government will continue circulating false and misleading claims to support the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Twitter, Google, and Facebook have all said they are increasing their efforts to remove videos that violate their policies. Twitter has temporarily paused its ads and some recommendations in Russia and Ukraine to prevent misinformation from spreading. Facebook announced on Friday it was prohibiting Russian state media from running ads. And YouTube told Recode that its evaluating whether new economic sanctions on Russia may impact what content is allowed on the platform. The video platform has faced criticism for allowing advertisers to run ads against Russian-backed state media outlet RT as it livestreams bombings in Ukraine.
Its unclear if Russia will escalate its partial restrictions in response to Facebooks continued refusal to stop moderating Russian media, or what exactly it will do to Twitter and YouTube.
Some internet security experts, social media researchers, and activists have advocated for US-based social media companies to cut off Russian state-funded media or state-run accounts, since that could weaken the Russian governments ability to distribute propaganda.
During the Cold War, we would never let Pravda publish in the United States, said Jim Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Why are we letting the Russians do this?
But for all the previously mentioned reasons, if tech companies further limit Russian state media and official government accounts, that could risk further retaliation by the Russian government.
All of this underscores how social media is a key battleground for global powers. It should come as no surprise that the Kremlin which proved itself masterful at interfering with US politics using social media disinformation campaigns during the 2016 elections is once again trying to manipulate the online public conversation in its favor.
- Congress is trying to rein in Big Tech. This lawmaker could stand in their way. - POLITICO - June 30th, 2022
- Why big tech companies are so quiet on abortion rights - The Verge - June 30th, 2022
- Big tech regulation needs both privacy and antitrust reform - TechTarget - June 30th, 2022
- We're Dangerously Close to Giving Big Tech Control Of Our Thoughts - TIME - June 30th, 2022
- China Is Tightening Its Grip on Big Tech - WIRED - June 30th, 2022
- The Download: Big Techs post-Roe silence, and the US EV charging landscape - MIT Technology Review - June 30th, 2022
- Big Tech sinks stocks bruised by recession jitters - The Spokesman Review - June 30th, 2022
- EU Institutions Reach Agreement On Landmark Regulations Targeting Big Tech - Privacy Protection - Worldwide - Mondaq - June 30th, 2022
- Can Big Tech manage the surging wave of unionization? - eMarketer - June 30th, 2022
- Beyond rainbows: 5 tech companies that did more for Pride in 2022 - Digital Trends - June 30th, 2022
- 'Big Lie' Vigilantism Is on the Rise. Big Tech Is Failing to Respond. - Minnesota Reformer - June 30th, 2022
- Poll: Voters Want Congress To Rein In Big Tech - Daily Caller - June 30th, 2022
- Antitrust showdown: Big Tech CEOs head to D.C. to lobby against legislation - WRAL TechWire - June 20th, 2022
- Opinion | Big Tech content licensing agreements have left smaller publishers out in the cold - Toronto Star - June 20th, 2022
- Big Tech begs Congress to pass $52bn chip subsidies bill - The Register - June 20th, 2022
- Big Tech Clashes with Brick and Mortar Group over Liability in Privacy Hearing - Nextgov - June 18th, 2022
- Why Big Tech wants to be in your car so badly - The Hustle - June 18th, 2022
- Beware the FCC's New Big Tech Enrichment Plan | Opinion - Newsweek - June 18th, 2022
- Random D.C. Lobbying Campaign of the Week: The Big Tech Bills - The American Prospect - June 18th, 2022
- Big Tech targets to be named at start of Japan antitrust probes - Nikkei Asia - June 18th, 2022
- House Republican measure would block Big Tech companies from hosting CCP officials on platforms - Fox News - June 18th, 2022
- From Great Resignation to Forced Resignation: Tech companies are shifting to layoffs after a huge ramp up in hiring - MarketWatch - June 18th, 2022
- The Digital Republic by Jamie Susskind review how to tame big tech - The Guardian - June 18th, 2022
- Apple and Google are coming for the computer in your car - Vox.com - June 18th, 2022
- Big Tech Has Become a Creature of the Swamp - WIRED - June 11th, 2022
- A.I. gurus are leaving Big Tech to work on buzzy new start-ups - CNBC - June 11th, 2022
- Why are so many big tech whistleblowers women? Here's what the research shows - Technical.ly - June 11th, 2022
- Oracle thinks it can fix healthcare's biggest tech issue - The Verge - June 11th, 2022
- Two Years After George Floyd Murder, Big Tech Fails to Live Up to Its Promises - Digital Information World - June 11th, 2022
- These 19 big tech stocks have now dropped at least 60% from their 52-week highs - MarketWatch - June 11th, 2022
- Amazon Targets Smaller Businesses with Local Ads Team; Big Tech Fights to Halt Antitrust Bill - ExchangeWire - June 11th, 2022
- These 19 large-cap stocks have now dropped at least 60% from their 52-week highs - MarketWatch - June 11th, 2022
- Big tech vs. data privacy: It wasnt meant to be this way - VentureBeat - May 25th, 2022
- How the regulation of big tech can affect your business - Information Age - May 25th, 2022
- The big tech thats shaping tomorrow today - Tech Wire Asia - May 25th, 2022
- Americans are united in wanting Congress to rein in Big Tech's power over news publishing, by Douglas Schoen - Press of Atlantic City - May 25th, 2022
- This era of big tech exceptionalism has got to end: Australian eSafety Commissioner - ZDNet - May 25th, 2022
- California bill would allow parents to sue Big Tech over social media addiction - Washington Examiner - May 25th, 2022
- Big Tech, Merchants, and a Range of Data and Fintech Firms Now Account for 35% of the Value of the Financial Services Industry, According to Oliver... - May 25th, 2022
- No Magic Bullet: The Difficulties of Reforming Big Tech - The National Interest Online - May 25th, 2022
- Events Roundup: Big tech parties and conferences are coming to Pittsburgh this June - Technical.ly - May 25th, 2022
- Big Tech Takes Texas to the Supreme Court - The New York Times - May 25th, 2022
- No housing bubble, Davos is back, and rout of Big Tech shares - The Irish Times - May 25th, 2022
- The Good, the Bad & the Artificial: How Big Data & Tech Are Infiltrating the Alcohol Industry - VinePair - May 25th, 2022
- Europe Is Getting Tough on Big Tech. When Will the US Do the Same? - CEOWORLD magazine - May 25th, 2022
- Douglas Schoen: Americans are united in wanting Congress to rein in Big Tech's power over news publishing - Chicago Tribune - April 25th, 2022
- Communication ETFs fall to 18-month lows ahead of big tech earnings - Seeking Alpha - April 25th, 2022
- Just Another Manic Monday Big Tech Weak? - TheStreet - April 25th, 2022
- Big Tech hiring cements Canada's status as Silicon Valley North but there's a catch - CBC News - April 25th, 2022
- In the Battle Against Illiberalism, Don't Take Big Tech for Granted - The National Interest Online - April 25th, 2022
- Will the internet's third iteration free our virtual selves from Big Tech's control? - The New Statesman - April 25th, 2022
- Global Digital Health Market Outlook 2022 - Big Tech Using On-demand Services in Primary Care to Strengthen its Hold in Healthcare - PR Newswire - April 25th, 2022
- Antitrust Reformers Debate Partnering With Bigots To Take On 'Big Tech' - Techdirt - April 15th, 2022
- Here's the typical pay for a Big Tech worker in Austin - Austonia - April 15th, 2022
- MLB forays into the future with new tech for the old ball game - TechCrunch - April 15th, 2022
- Apple privacy protections expected to cost big tech firms $16 billion in coming year - MarTech - April 15th, 2022
- Common Knowledge: Big tech and the digital commons - Resilience - April 15th, 2022
- DuckDuckGo readying browser to compete with big tech products from Google, Apple - Washington Times - April 15th, 2022
- Big Techs battle for the metaverse will come down to ethics - Quartz - April 15th, 2022
- IonQ: Enormous Valuation And The Competition Is Big-Tech - Seeking Alpha - April 15th, 2022
- Panelists Urge Government Resist Getting Involved in Content Moderation - BroadbandBreakfast.com - April 15th, 2022
- Daily Tearsheet: CarbonPay's sustainability-focused payment card, and tech's newfound interest in carbon capture Tearsheet - Tearsheet - April 15th, 2022
- The Senate bill that has Big Tech scared - Ars Technica - April 11th, 2022
- What the Wiki Big Tech Site Tells Us About Competition - CDOTrends - April 11th, 2022
- Cathy ONeil: Big tech makes use of shame to profit from our interactions - The Guardian - April 11th, 2022
- Dr. Oz Wants To Fight Big Tech In The Senate. He Owns At Least $10 Million In Shares Of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple And Microsoft. - Forbes - April 11th, 2022
- Jaws Actor Richard Dreyfuss Says Big Tech's Censorship Is A "Despicable" Practice That Threatens Free Speech - Bounding Into Comics - April 11th, 2022
- GoTo Shares Jump After Raising $1.1 Billion in One of 2022s Biggest IPOs - Yahoo Finance - April 11th, 2022
- 'Birtherism' to the 'Big Lie': Inside Obama's fight to counter disinformation - WDJT - April 11th, 2022
- Big Abortion's Big Tech Allies Aim to Censor Pro-Lifers. They Won't Win. - Daily Signal - April 9th, 2022
- Despite railing against Big Tech and Big Pharma, records show Dr. Oz has invested millions in both - ABC News - April 9th, 2022
- Elizabeth Warrens plan to break up Big Tech and other mergers - Vox.com - April 9th, 2022
- Canada wants Big Tech to share its riches with news publishers - The Register - April 9th, 2022
- The Metaverse is a Huge Opportunity for Education. Big Tech Must Not Ruin It | Opinion - Newsweek - April 9th, 2022
- Russian Disinformation, Canadian Big Tech, WideOpenWest Sale, Broadband Emerging Leaders - BroadbandBreakfast.com - April 9th, 2022
- 'Don't Break my Prime?' Actually, it's time to move fast and break....Big Tech bobsullivan.net - Bob Sullivan.net - April 9th, 2022
- Downtown Austin is looking like itself again as big tech returns to the office - Austonia - April 9th, 2022
- These people lead sustainability within Big Tech. Here's how much power they actually have. - Protocol - April 9th, 2022
- Why Elon Musk's Twitter move is supercharging the Big Tech debate - Fox News - April 9th, 2022
- Big Tech's fast-and-dirty employment honeymoon is over as Amazon unionises - City A.M. - April 9th, 2022