Meta has stopped recommending content by Russian state media to all users of Facebook, and soon Instagram, as the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine wages on.
In a call with reporters on Tuesday, Meta executives said Russian media affiliated with the government had been demoted in the main Facebook Feed, and that it was no longer being recommended algorithmically anywhere on the social network. Instagram is also in the process of blocking all recommendations of Russian state media globally, the executives said, adding that links to outlets under the influence of the Russian government will be labeled on both apps.
The moves come after the Russian government last week started throttling internet access to Facebook and Instagram in the country because Meta refused to stop labeling and fact-checking state-owned media. Since then, Meta has started blocking Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik in the EU and Ukraine, removed a Russian misinformation campaign pushing fake news about the war, and blocked Russian state media’s ability to make money on its platform.
Thwarting the distribution of Russian state media globally on its platform is a sharp escalation by Meta against the country, and perhaps the first time it has taken such action against state-controlled media anywhere. “It’s unprecedented in terms of doing that to an official state media outlet, at least to my knowledge,” Katie Harbath, a former policy director at Facebook, told The Verge. “There were takedowns of entities associated with things like The Epoch Times, but nothing state-run.”
On the call with reporters, Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said that Russia’s move to throttle its service through local internet service providers had particularly hampered the playback of videos on Facebook and Instagram. “The degradation of the service is definitely discernible,” he said, adding that “the throttling may be more extreme by the end of the day. We just don’t know.”