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Russia limits access to Facebook as the social networking giant attempts to fact-check pro-Kremlin propaganda

February 25, 2022, 10:00 PM UTC

Russia is constricting access to Facebook, alleging that the social networking service restricted the accounts of four Russian news outlets that are favorable to the Kremlin.

The Russian telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor, said in a statement (translated via Google Translate) on Friday that Facebook had restricted access to news services Zvezda TV, the RIA Novosti news agency, and the and internet sites. 

The regulator’s announcement comes amid a flood of pro-Kremlin propaganda intended to portray a different narrative of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. As The Guardian reported, Russian state media is attempting to “portray Moscow’s invasion as a defensive campaign to ‘liberate’ Ukraine, focusing much of its coverage on the alleged protection of the Donbas, supposedly under attack by Kyiv.”

The regulator claims that by Meta restricting access to some of Russia’s news outlets, the company is “involved in the violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, as well as the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens.”

A Meta spokesperson referred Fortune to a statement on Twitter by Nick Clegg, Meta’s vice president of global affairs, in which he acknowledged that Russian authorities “announced they will be restricting the use of our services.”

He said the Russian authorities told Meta “to stop the independent fact-checking and labeling of content posted on Facebook by four Russian state-owned media organizations,” but the company “refused” to comply with the demand.  

“Ordinary Russians are using our apps to express themselves and organize for action,” Clegg said. “We want them to continue to make their voices heard, share what’s happening, and organize through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.”

As Fortune’s Jacob Carpenter noted, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses a significant challenge to social media services like Facebook, Google’s YouTube, and Twitter, which have all been criticized in the past for failing to react quickly to preventing the spread of fake news on their platforms.

Carpenter described some of the methods these tech companies are using to combat misinformation during the current war:

Facebook parent Meta announced a “special operations center” staffed by “experts and native speakers” to monitor content—though the company didn’t elaborate on their number or background. Twitter is suspending accounts (sometimes mistakenly) that violate the company’s policies on fake and manipulated media. Google-owned YouTube has blocked channels run by Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

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