The war in Ukraine is testing the power of the tech giants

The Telegram experience illustrates competing pressures. The app is popular in Russia and Ukraine for sharing war images, videos and news. But it has also become a staging ground for war disinformation, such as unverified battlefield footage.

On Sunday, Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, announced to his more than 600,000 subscribers on the platform that he was considering blocking certain war-related channels in Ukraine and Russia because they could escalate the conflict and incite violence. ethnic hatred.

Users responded with concern, saying they relied on Telegram for independent information. Less than an hour later, Mr. Durov backtracked.

“Many users have asked us not to consider turning off Telegram channels during the time of the dispute, as we are their only source of information,” he wrote. Telegram did not respond to a request for comment.

At Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, the situation has been “chaotic” due to the volume of Russian misinformation on its apps, said two employees, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Russian experts on Meta’s security team, which identifies and removes state-sponsored misinformation on Facebook and Instagram, are working around the clock and communicating regularly with Twitter, YouTube and other companies about their findings. , the two employees said.

Meta’s security team has long debated whether to restrict Sputnik and Russia Today, two of Russia’s largest state-run media sites, on its platforms or label their posts so that they clearly indicate their source. Russia Today and Sputnik are “essential components of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem,” according to a January State Department report.

Meta executives had resisted the moves, saying they would anger Russia, employees said. But after the outbreak of war, Nick Clegg, who runs global affairs for Meta, announcement Monday that the company would restrict access to Russia Today and Sputnik across the European Union.

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