A flood of posts pushing misinformation in Slovakia is placing the highlight on Facebook for facilitating the unfold of pro-Russian theories on the struggle in neighbouring Ukraine, starting from claims that Kyiv is secretly growing organic weapons to questioning whether or not President Vladimir Putin’s invasion even occurred in any respect.
While Facebook proprietor Meta Platforms stated it’s taking “extensive steps to fight the spread of misinformation” in the Nato and European Union member, Slovakia’s authorities, different former Eastern Bloc international locations, and even US lawmakers say the corporate isn’t doing sufficient.
The dispute took heart stage this week when members of the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence referred to as out Meta and its chief govt officer, Mark Zuckerberg, for facilitating the harmful unfold of pro-Russia disinformation in the nation of 5.3 million.
According to the Globsec safety suppose tank, the depth of false messages is worse right here than anyplace else in ex-communist central Europe. That has buoyed help for Putin, with greater than 1 / 4 of Slovaks saying they again his actions, even because the administration in Bratislava tries to shelter the refugees and ship weapons to Kyiv to help in its protection.
“The Committee is deeply concerned by the continued presence of harmful disinformation and pro-Russian propaganda on Slovak Facebook,” the US delegation led by Chairman Adam Schiff wrote in a letter to Zuckerberg. They urged Meta “immediately to ensure that all pro-Russian disinformation is quickly evaluated, fact-checked, and labeled, downranked, or removed in accordance with Facebook’s public pledges and stated policies”.
The committee stated that the US and Slovak governments had repeatedly requested Meta to take motion in opposition to messages that embrace posts accusing Ukrainians of supporting Fascism, killing their fellow countrymen and demonising the a whole bunch of 1000’s of people that have fled overseas to flee the struggle.
“Half of the population is prone to believe in some kind of misinformation or conspiracy theories,” stated GLOBSEC analyst Dominika Hajdu.
At current, Meta has just one fact-checker devoted to Slovakia, the place about 2.7 million folks, or virtually half of the inhabitants, have Facebook accounts, making it essentially the most broadly used social-media platform, in accordance with the US committee members’ letter. They described the staffing stage as “wildly inadequate”.
On an online web page supplied by Meta figuring out fact-checking companions in Slovakia, it listed AFP journalist Robert Barca because the particular person accountable for Slovakia. Meta stated it’s consulting governments throughout the area, and its efforts to fight the problem embrace an array of measures that take away some content material and tagging different objects with warning labels.
“We’re removing content that violates our policies, and working with third-party fact checkers in the region to debunk false claims,” Meta spokeswoman Magdalena Szulc stated in an e mail. “When they rate something as false, we move this content lower in Feed so fewer people see it. We’re also giving people more information to decide what to read, trust, and share by adding warning labels on content rated false.”
‘Justifying a crime’
Last yr, earlier than Putin invaded Ukraine, the Slovak secret service issued a report warning that “the activities of pro-Russian activists were focused on the spread of narratives aimed at the polarisation of Slovak society”.
Earlier this week, police briefly detained former Supreme Court Chairman Stefan Harabin after he posted an merchandise declaring that “Russia must pacify the Nazis who killed 15,000 own citizens from 2014”, echoing the Kremlin narrative that its invasion of its neighbour is an effort to “denazify” Ukraine. Harabin, who stands accused of “justifying a crime”, has denied wrongdoing.
“Never before in history has freedom of speech been abused in favour of murder and destruction on such a mass scale and with such a devastating effect,” Prime Minister Eduard Heger wrote in his personal Facebook publish.
Slovakia isn’t alone. In February, the prime ministers of Poland and the Baltic trio Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania demanded executives in cost of Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter “take a stand” in opposition to Russian disinformation.
The EU, in the meantime, finalised laws final month giving governments extra energy to pressure the businesses to take down unlawful content material resembling hate speech, terrorist propaganda or slap them with fines that might attain 6% of their annual income.
In the letter to Zuckerberg, the US committee members requested a briefing on what it’s doing to handle the Slovak authorities’ considerations, data on any investigations it has led into pro-Russian disinformation, and its plans to handle the problem. They stated Meta had agreed.
“The Slovak government is rightly troubled by these developments,” the members wrote. “One senior Slovak defense official described Facebook as ‘the main arena for Kremlin propaganda’. Yet despite Facebook’s awareness of the issue, the pervasive and false content seems to remain on Facebook’s platform.” – Bloomberg