Meta demotes content from Russian-backed news outlets

But Facebook owner stops short of withdrawing services from Russia completely

Facebook owner Meta said it was demoting content shared from Russian state-controlled media outlets on its social media platforms, making its harder to find, but stopped short of withdrawing services from the country.

The company has also demoted posts that contain links to Russian-controlled state media, and planned to put labels on the content to let people know about their ties to the state before they click.

Head of global affairs Nick Clegg said Meta wanted to keep its apps working in Russia to allow people to access information on Facebook and Instagram, and had rolled out a number of safety features for users in Ukraine and Russia to protect them from being targeted. That includes the ability to lock your profile, removing the ability to view and search friends lists, and highlighting its encryption option on Messenger.

“Our priority has been to ensure that people can continue using our apps and services safely and securely,” he said.


Malicious networks

Mr Clegg said the company wanted to prevent abuse of its platforms by taking down malicious networks of accounts engaging in “inauthentic” behaviour. It had also received requests from governments outside the EU to block Russian state media on its platforms.

“We are working closely with governments and responding to their requests to combat misinformation and harmful propaganda,” he said.

The company was speaking ahead of the release of its regular community standards enforcement report.

It found a reduction in bullying and harassment on Facebook, compared to the previous quarter. The company said the reduction was due to fine-tuning the rules to exclude the use of words where instead of being used in an offensive way, they are being used between friends as a term of endearment.

"This change is designed to stop us from removing content where there's no actual harassment," said Monica Bickert, vice president of content policy at Meta.

The company has also updated the section in its community standards covering misinformation rules, partly in response to the recommendations of the Oversight Board. Although Facebook is not changing its policies, it has taken on board the suggestion of the panel that it consolidate them in a single place to make it easier for users to locate them.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist