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Moscow Uses Big Tech To Control the Storyline After Russia Invades Ukraine

As Russian missiles fell on Ukrainian cities, another battle erupted online and over the airwaves.
Moscow intensified its efforts to control the narrative in news media, while large tech companies Alphabet Inc’s Google and Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook placed restrictions on Russia’s state-controlled media outlets in Ukraine.
Russia announced Friday that it would partially limit Facebook. This was Meta’s response to a government request to halt the independent fact-checking by several Russian state media outlets. Twitter announced that its service was being restricted to some Russian users on Saturday.
Users reported that Facebook Messenger was slow to load images and videos after the slowdown. Twitter was slow on mobile devices – it has been subject to a punitive slowdown ever since March. In recent days, many state websites, including (Kremlin website), have also experienced outages.
The standoff represents the latest in a series of confrontations with Russia for tech companies. Platforms are at risk of being placed under restrictions by the government in Russia as it seeks censor dissidents and protect state-run media.
Major social, video, and livestreaming platforms, such as Facebook, TikTok, Twitch, and Twitch, are under increasing pressure to stop spreading misleading footage and falsehoods about the conflict on their platforms.
This latest Russian clash with tech comes just days before Moscow set a deadline for major foreign tech companies that they must comply with a new law. The law requires them to establish official representation in the country. This could make it easier for Russia to regulate platforms. It follows a series o fines and slowdowns that were imposed on platforms by the Russian government for failing to remove illegal content.
Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, published an online list that showed only Apple, Spotify, and Viber having met all three requirements of law by Sunday 2145 GMT. They include: Registering an account with Roskomnadzor, giving users a way of communicating directly with the company and setting up a representative.
Russia threatened to ban advertising from companies if they didn’t comply with its demands this month. Russian officials said that there could be further restrictions, including speed slowdowns and outright blocks.
The burden of big tech companies is also to weigh the demands of Ukrainian officials and sympathizers around the world who have asked them to expel Russian users out of their services to stop the spread false information while also preserving access for dissidents to crucial digital tools.
“Mark Zuckerberg, while creating Metaverse – Russia destroys real life in Ukraine!” We ask that you ban access to @facebookapp & @instagram from Russia, as long as tanks & missiles attack our kindergartens & hospitals!” Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister, wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Meta’s global affairs head Nick Clegg tweeted Sunday in response to the demands that he turn off Instagram and Facebook Russia. This would “silence significant expression at a crucial moment.”
It was obvious that others in the tech industry were facing similar problems. Pavel Durov, founder of Telegram, said that after receiving feedback from users, the company would not restrict certain channels for spreading false information just minutes after he posted on Sunday that Telegram would be considering limiting some channels.
As activists and politicians demanded that the Kremlin-sponsored outlets be demonetized or banned, the activities of state-controlled media like RT and Sputnik have been a major source of conflict between Moscow, Russia, and major tech platforms.