Facebook failing to label 91% of posts containing Russian propaganda about Ukraine
- Articles about Ukraine written by English-language media outlets owned by the Russian state have received over 500,000 likes, comments and shares from Facebook users in the last year, according to new research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH)
- Facebook announced in October 2019 that it would start “labelling state-controlled media on their Page and in our Ad Library,” as part of its measures to counter disinformation targeting US elections.
- But new research finds that the vast majority (91%) of posts containing content from Russian state media are not covered by this policy and do not carry labels.
- CCDH is a US non-profit (501c3) that researches the architecture of online hate and misinformation. The Center has offices in Washington, D.C. and London
In a new study, CCDH researchers analysed a sample of 3,593 articles posted by RT.com (formerly Russia Today), Sputnik News, TASS and Ruptly—a social media content producer owned by RT.com.
All of these outlets have been identified by the US State Department as “Kremlin-funded media” and part of “Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem”.
Researchers then used Facebook’s own CrowdTangle tool to identify posts featuring the 100 most popular articles from this sample, to examine whether the platform applied warning labels stating that the content was from “Russia state-controlled media”.
This revealed that 91% of 1,304 posts containing articles from Kremlin-funded media did not carry any warning labels.
Examples of articles that Facebook is failing to label in posts include claims that:
- Ukraine planned a “false flag” incident “prepared by British-trained saboteurs”
- “American mercenaries” are “preparing a provocation using chemical weapons”
- UK intelligence reports about an invasion are “false stories”
- Media reports about troop movements are “hysteria”
- “War-hungry armed Americans in combat clothing” are operating in Ukraine
Facebook announced in October 2019 that it would start “labelling state-controlled media on their Page and in our Ad Library,” as part of its measures to counter disinformation targeting US elections.
But the vast majority of posts containing content from Russian state media, which are from a wider range of Pages and Groups, are not covered by this policy and do not carry labels.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has warned that the platform’s secrecy and lack of transparency will prevent the identification of “influence operations” run by countries like Russia, China and Iran.
Imran Ahmed, Chief Executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), said:
“Facebook has once again fallen short on their promises to enforce their own rules. The justification for the Russian war against Ukraine was built on Facebook.
“It is time Mark Zuckerberg stopped allowing his platform to be used by hostile actors with malignant intentions. His failure to stop Facebook being weaponized by the Russian state is being felt right now by the people of Ukraine and, given the bellicose words of the Russian leader, cast the specter of a nuclear mushroom cloud over the world.”
“The Russian state is involved in an array of hostile influence operations. The tentacles of their integrated media production and social media distribution networks seek to change the way Western audiences think about political questions to benefit Putin’s agenda—with clear implications for our national security and international order.