The organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has issued an Appeal, in which it urges the main online platforms to take into account the specifics of journalism in the context of the fight against disinformation and the war in Ukraine. According to the RSF, the major measures to combat disinformation, announced at the beginning of the military conflict by the most important online platforms, in reality resulted in “obstructing access to truthful news and information in Ukraine”.
The organization notes that since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the largest online platforms have focused on moderating comments, and their “late and superficial” measures, without revising algorithms, have also hit journalists. According to the RSF, several media reports and journalists have become victims of such moderations.
“After years of doing nothing, the platforms suddenly and blindly began to address the problem of disinformation, and their inadequate moderation policies have repeatedly affected Ukrainian journalism”, said Vincent Berthier, head of RSF’s Technical Bureau. “Until they agree to use the right tools, they will continue to obstruct journalism and access to information. We urge them to review their moderation policies and rewrite their algorithms. In times of war, journalism must be protected”, Berthier said.
For instance, Ukrainian TV channel 5 Kanal announced that on June 17th, its Facebook page was deleted due to a post. In an article on its website, the television station explained that a post about abuses allegedly committed by the Russian army was considered by Facebook moderators as incitement to violence. Thus, the Facebook page of the TV station was deleted, and more than 538,000 of its followers were deprived of access to the published content.
Later, the Facebook page of 5 Kanal was restored. At the same time, the accounts of several journalists can also be “restricted”, which means that they can disappear from the news feeds of Facebook users, so that only those who go directly to the restricted pages will be able to see the posts.
For example, the deputy editor of the Livii Bereg publication, Sonia Koșkina, had such an experience 11 times on Facebook, after publishing some posts about the war in Ukraine.
RSF urges large companies in the information technology industry, in particular Meta (Facebook), to rethink their choice of strategies to combat disinformation. “They need to rewrite their algorithms, recruit more specialists and provide them with the technical and intellectual resources they need to be able to identify journalistic content on their platforms”, the organization’s appeal states.
The RSF also writes that the damage caused by online platforms also affects the business models of media institutions. Andrei Boborîkin, editor-in-chief of Ukrainskaia Pravda, claims that Facebook and Google have blocked all sponsorship possibilities in the occupied regions of eastern Ukraine. According to the publication, 57% of Ukrainians read the news on Facebook if they were not deprived of access to this platform.
The organization points out that the media needs sponsors to attract the attention of Facebook users. “Without any possibility of sponsorship, I am doomed to become invisible and therefore bankrupt. This is unacceptable because it destroys journalism and does not affect disinformation, which does not require funding. Platforms must recognize their inability to determine what journalism is and use appropriate tools if they really want to combat disinformation”, RSF writes.