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💬 "Big Tech’s Russia Problem"

Recode Daily

Photo by Jaunt and Joy / Unsplash

Host: Adam Clark Estes
Guest: Shirin Ghaffary | Senior Reporter | Recode
Category: 💬 Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:01] “On Friday, February 25, Russia announced that it's going to restrict access to the estimated 70 million people who use Facebook and Russia. And it claimed that Facebook was restricting pro Russian news sites. And then that was a form of censorship. And that's why it would, in retaliation, essentially censor Facebook.”

[1:21] “But later that day, Meta pushed back and said that Russian authorities had ordered the company to stop independent fact checking and labeling of content, and that it would not be pushed by the Russian Government to essentially stop fact checking. On Saturday morning, Twitter also confirmed that its app is similarly being restricted for some people in Russia.

[2:39] “There's no indication that [Russia’s restrictions are] going to stop anytime soon. And what restricting means is that essentially the Russian government has slowed down the apps like Facebook and Twitter. If you're in Moscow right now, and you're trying to use Twitter, we're seeing reports that it's extremely slow, or just not working. Same thing with Facebook. […] The Russian government essentially has the ability to just make these websites really hard to use. China has long done this, they have a great firewall that blocks basically all US social media apps. And it seems that Russia is now heading in the same direction.”

[4:26] “Besides the Kremlin being essentially able to boot [the companies] off the local internet entirely, these companies are also risking the safety of their local employees. Because although they are American based companies, they do have international staff. And there's actually a new law in Russia going into place that will force these major tech companies to have significant staff that could essentially be used [as] hostages on these kinds of issues.”

[4:57] “In the past, the Russian government has threatened to arrest employees of Google and Apple. And that was last September, when supporters of Alexei Navalny […] made an app to help people vote. And the Russian government threatened to, again, arrest Apple and Google employees if they did not take down this app from their stores. So Apple and Google actually went ahead and deleted the app.”

[6:41] “There have been people who have said that if Russia had less access to the internet, this would make it a harder war for Russia to fight, and that that would help supporters of democracy in Ukraine. But I actually talked to a lot of politicians and online speech experts who said that they want social media platforms to remain operating in Russia to some extent. Because that is one of the few places where people can openly talk about being against the war in Russia. It's a lot harder to say that on the Russian state media, let's say or on Russian social media apps that are more heavily censored and controlled by the Russian government.”

[8:25] “The Russian government is notoriously famous for using social media to manipulate public opinion in its favor. And if you think back to the 2016 elections, we had these Russian state sponsored troll farms going out and trying to spread politically divisive messages to influence what was happening here in the US. And we are seeing some of the same kind of tactics they're trying to do here, spreading false information. And again, it's hard to say exactly where this is coming from, but many people suspect it is tied to the Russian state government. Facebook has taken down some of these disinformation campaigns, but we're also seeing a lot of misinfo just coming straight from Russian state media.”

[9:15] “There has been pressure on Twitter, Facebook and Google to limit Russian state media like RT or to at least label it. And we are seeing that happen in the past few days. And this is pretty significant, because it's something that the platform's have long resisted. They've sort of let RT operate for many years, even though it's been controversial […] in the name of free speech, but now with the stakes so high and the pressure intensifying, they've all blocked RT in Europe. […] There are calls for them to go further and block RT in Russia itself, but that would have obviously increased repercussions from the Russian government most likely.”

[10:02] “There are more calls specifically from the Ukrainian government [that big tech should do more]. […] Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov […] is going out there on Twitter and publicly appealing to all the major tech companies […] to essentially stop all their services from being available in Russia and saying that's a way to sort of disempower the Russian government. It seems like his plea has had some effect, because Apple did go ahead and pause the sale of iPhones and all other products inside Russia. And it's going to stop exports into the country in response to the invasion, and that is pretty unprecedented big news.”

Rating: 🚀🚀🚀🚀

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify | Google
🕰️ 11 min | 🗓️ 03/04/2022
✅ Time saved: 9 min

Additional Links:
Article: “Big Tech’s Russia problem” (Shirin Ghaffary)

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