Warner urges social media companies to curb Russian information operations

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) leaves the Capitol after a series of votes including the final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act and a judicial nomination on Wednesday, December 15, 2021.
Greg Nash

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) asked major social media platforms to ramp up efforts to curb Russian information operations after the country launched its invasion of Ukraine. 

Warner sent letters on Friday to Meta, Reddit, Telegram, TikTok, Twitter and Alphabet, calling for increased protocols to prevent the spread of “harmful misinformation and disinformation campaigns, and a wide range of scams and frauds that opportunistically exploit confusion, desperation, and grief.”

He asked the companies to establish ways for Ukrainian public safety entities to disseminate emergency communications to users in Ukraine, as well as add additional account monitoring and security resources to the Ukrainian government, humanitarian organizations and public safety institutions to prevent account takeovers. 

He also urged the platforms to boost their integrity teams to monitor for “malign influence activity related to the conflict,” devote additional resources toward identifying inauthentic accounts and establish dedicated reporting channels for experts to share credible information about disinformation. 

In his letter to Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, Warner specifically called for the company to desist from monetization of content and channels “publicly attributed to have associations with Russian influence activity.” 

Warner said his staff identified the RT, Sputnik and TASS channels’ content “specifically focused on the Ukraine conflict to be monetized with YouTube ads — including, somewhat perversely, an ad by a major U.S. government contractor.”

Google’s wider advertising network also “continues to support influence outlets such as Sputnik and TASS, he wrote. 

“As one of the world’s largest communications platforms, your company has a clear responsibility to ensure that your products are not used to facilitate human rights abuses, undermine humanitarian and emergency service responses, or advance harmful disinformation,” Warner wrote. 

Spokespeople for the companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Facebook on Thursday pledged to take some of the steps Warner’s letter called for. The social media giant said it would establish a Special Operations Center staffed with experts, including native speakers, to monitor and respond to posts. 

The company also launched a feature to give users an extra layer of privacy and security. 

The push for tech companies to crack down on Russian influence campaigns comes after the nation launched a military invasion into Ukraine earlier this week. The action was widely condemned by world leaders, including by President Biden and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress. 

Tags Alphabet Facebook Google Joe Biden Mark Warner META Propaganda techniques Russia Social media State media tiktok Twitter Ukraine Ukraine invasion

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