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Following Tech Oversight Project TV Ad, Bipartisan Lawmakers Challenge Facebook’s Meta for Spreading Russian Disinformation

Mar 16, 2022

Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Contact: [email protected], 571-316-6421

Watch The Tech Oversight Project’s TV ad here.

WASHINGTON, DC – Days after The Tech Oversight Project drew attention to Big Tech companies continuing to help spread pro-Russia disinformation with a new TV ad, a bipartisan group of members sent a scathing letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook’s Meta, pressing the organization for answers into Chinese-state media channels purchasing Facebook ads to push Russian disinformation. Watch The Tech Oversight Project’s ad here.

“Big Tech companies are enabling Russia’s disinformation, refusing to divest from Kremlin-backed campaigns, and failing to provide lawmakers with the transparency needed to hold Putin accountable. These companies continually conceal the truth from the American people and have operated unchecked for far too long,” said Sacha Haworth, Executive Director of the Tech Oversight Project. “I applaud this bipartisan Congressional group for demanding the answers our government needs to ensure that Russia cannot use third-party channels on Facebook or any platform as a backdoor to launder anti-American propaganda around the world.”

The letter was led by Rep. Young Kim (R-CA) and Rep. Ed Case (D-HI), who were joined by Reps. Brain Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA). The members asked for Zuckerberg’s response to the following questions before March 31, 2022:

  • What steps is Meta taking to ensure that Russian disinformation on the Ukraine invasion is not proliferated to U.S. and global audiences through non-Russian outlets and accounts, including CCP-affiliated accounts?

  • Please describe efforts being taken by Meta to expand its 2020 policy decision to block state-controlled media outlets from buying advertising in the U.S. to blocking targeting global audiences as well.

  • What steps are being taken by Meta to improve its fact-checking efforts to counter disinformation on the Ukraine invasion for U.S. and global audiences, especially those in Ukraine and Eastern Europe?

  • According to Meta’s advertising library, how much money have Chinese state broadcasters, including CGTN, spent on ads amplifying Russian disinformation on the Ukraine invasion? Which countries were targeted with these ads and how many people were reached?

    • What steps are being taken to improve the transparency of Meta’s advertising library to ensure state-funded ad buys are accurately reported to the public?

  • How many employees of Meta are fluent in Russian, Ukrainian, Mandarin, Polish, and other relevant languages that have been used for targeted disinformation campaigns?

ICYMI: Axios: Exclusive: Lawmakers press Meta on China ad policy

By Ashley Gold on 3/15/22

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pressing Meta on its policy toward paid advertisements from Chinese state-sponsored media as the war in Ukraine continues and false Russian narratives proliferate, per a letter sent to CEO Mark Zuckerberg Tuesday.

Driving the news: The letter comes after Axios reported last week that state-controlled China Global TV Network had placed at least 21 ads on Meta-owned Facebook, many featuring newscasts pushing pro-Russia talking points about the ongoing attacks on Ukraine.

  • The letter also cites Chinese outlets spreading false reports on Facebook that Russia is targeting U.S. biolabs in Ukraine.

Why it matters: False narratives surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are multiplying on both traditional and social media, and platforms are scrambling to adjust their policies accordingly.

What they’re saying: The group of six House lawmakers, including Young Kim (R-Calif.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Ed Case (D-HI), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), acknowledged that Meta had taken steps to block Russian state media and affiliated outlets from monetizing content on the platform, but said the company hasn’t gone far enough.

“Facebook has not focused on Chinese state broadcasters and affiliated accounts from buying ads and targeting global users with pro-Russian narratives on the Ukraine invasion,” the lawmakers write.

  • “This is emblematic of a larger push by Chinese Communist Party-directed propaganda operations to influence global dialogue and policy on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and must be met with a strong, coordinated public-private response.”

Details: The lawmakers ask Meta to respond to five questions about their ad policies by March 31, including:

  • What steps the platform is taking to ensure Russian disinformation is not spread to global audiences through non-Russian accounts;
  • whether Meta will expand its U.S. policy of not letting state-related media buy ads globally;

  • and how much money Chinese state broadcasters have spent on ads about the invasion and where their ads were targeted.

Read more here.

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