How a Few Thoughtless Words About Privacy Led To Huge Political and Economic Headaches

 
 

One of the most surprising developments in recent years is how privacy – something that by definition is about small, intimate things – has become a major global force in the spheres of economics and politics. Perhaps the clearest demonstration of that transformation involves data flows across the Atlantic, and the Austrian lawyer and activist Max Schrems.

As the New York Times reported in 2015, Schrems was a 24-year-old student studying at the Santa Clara School of Law in California, when lawyers from Silicon Valley came to talk to students about their companies’ approach to privacy. Schrems was “taken aback” when he heard them say that they didn’t take Europe’s privacy laws very seriously, since companies rarely faced any significant penalties for breaking them.

What was probably just an off-the-cuff remark by a lawyer touched Schrems, an Austrian national, personally. It spurred him to investigate how Facebook dealt with EU data protection laws. In particular, Schrems asked to see all the data the company had collected from him, as he was entitled to do under EU privacy laws.

He was surprised to see that Facebook had retained information that he had deleted, including highly personal matters. Schrems filed various complaints with the Irish Data Protection Commission, which regulates Facebook in the EU because Facebook’s European headquarters are located in Ireland.

The revelation by Edward Snowden in 2013 that the US National Security Agency could access the personal data of EU citizens, thanks to the Prism program, led to another privacy complaint by Schrems, which concerned the transfer of his personal data from the EU to the US.

Under the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive, which preceded today’s better-known General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that was only permitted if the receiving country offered “an adequate level of protection of the data”. Schrems claimed that Snowden’s leaks revealed that the US did not offer the necessary level of protection.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the EU’s highest court, agreed with him, and ruled that the Safe Harbor framework agreed between the US and the EU to legalise the transfer of personal data was invalid. That ruling made the transfers to the US of personal data concerning EU citizens much harder, since companies could not depend on the Safe Harbor framework.

To remedy the situation, a replacement for the Safe Harbor scheme was agreed between the US and the EU. However, as PIA blog reported in 2020 the Privacy Shield was also sunk by the CJEU, largely on the same grounds as before.

Since then, the US and EU have been working hard to come up with a third framework to allow the smooth transfer of EU personal data in a way that is legal under the GDPR. Businesses on both sides of the Atlantic were becoming seriously concerned about the delay. The US Chamber of Commerce of Commerce and BusinessEurope issued a joint statement on the topic, which includes the following:

We call on the European Commission and on the U.S. Administration to swiftly conclude a robust new framework for data transfers, addressing the problems which led to the invalidation of the Privacy Shield, and upholding our shared transatlantic values of privacy and security.

Finalizing a new agreement will not only provide a legal mechanism that is accessible to small and medium-sized businesses but also will remove growing uncertainty around the role of standard contractual clauses, which are relied upon for the bulk of cross-border data flows. We are confident that a new agreement is within reach that can provide long-term legal certainty and will in turn yield increased innovation, cooperation, and growth across the transatlantic economy.

Indeed, the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has just announced that the EU and US have “found an agreement in principle on a new framework for transatlantic data flows.” However, there are few details yet. In particular, it is not clear whether it can deal with the fallout of an important recent judgment handed down by the US Supreme Court. An opinion piece in The Hill explains:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this month in FBI v. Fazaga, a case challenging FBI surveillance, will make it significantly harder for people to pursue surveillance cases, and for U.S. and European Union (EU) negotiators to secure a lasting agreement for transatlantic transfers of private data.

The justices gave the U.S. government more latitude to invoke “state secrets” in spying cases. But ironically, that victory undercuts the Biden administration’s efforts to show that the United States has sufficiently strong privacy protections to sustain a new Privacy Shield agreement — unless Congress steps in now.

The future “Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework” has “a new multi-layer redress mechanism”, and specifies that “intelligence collection may be undertaken only where necessary to advance legitimate national security objectives, and must not disproportionately impact the protection of individual privacy and civil liberties”.

However, without full details of how those will work in practice, it’s impossible to say whether it is likely that the CJEU would rule that the new framework is invalid, as it did for the other two. Max Schrems has already indicated that he or others will bring a legal challenge if the new framework seems to offer insufficient safeguards.

Without a valid framework, companies will be forced to come up with expensive and messy ad hoc solutions that will act as a significant obstacle to the frictionless flow of personal data across the Atlantic. And all because of a few words said by a lawyer in front of one particular student.

By: Glyn Moody

Source: How a Few Thoughtless Words about Privacy Led to Huge Political and Economic Headaches for the US and EU political and economic headache

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Critics:

By: Cameron F. Kerry

Recent congressional hearings and data breaches have prompted more legislators and business leaders to say the time for broad federal privacy legislation has come. Cameron Kerry presents the case for adoption of a baseline framework to protect consumer privacy in the U.S.

Most recent proposals for privacy legislation aim at slices of the issues this explosion presents. The Equifax breach produced legislation aimed at data brokers. Responses to the role of Facebook and Twitter in public debate have focused on political ad disclosure, what to do about bots, or limits to online tracking for ads.

Most state legislation has targeted specific topics like use of data from ed-tech products, access to social media accounts by employers, and privacy protections from drones and license-plate readers. Facebook’s simplification and expansion of its privacy controls and recent federal privacy bills in reaction to events focus on increasing transparency and consumer choice. So does the newly enacted California Privacy Act.

Our existing laws developed as a series of responses to specific concerns, a checkerboard of federal and state laws, common law jurisprudence, and public and private enforcement that has built up over more than a century.

It began with the famous Harvard Law Review article by (later) Justice Louis Brandeis and his law partner Samuel Warren in 1890 that provided a foundation for case law and state statutes for much of the 20th Century, much of which addressed the impact of mass media on individuals who wanted, as Warren and Brandeis put it, “to be let alone.”

The advent of mainframe computers saw the first data privacy laws adopted in 1974 to address the power of information in the hands of big institutions like banks and government: the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act that gives us access to information on credit reports and the Privacy Act that governs federal agencies.

Today, our checkerboard of privacy and data security laws covers data that concerns people the most. These include health data, genetic information, student records and information pertaining to children in general, financial information, and electronic communications (with differing rules for telecommunications carriers, cable providers, and emails).

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Thousands Of Cashless Russians Stranded Overseas Amid Flight Cancellations

Thousands of Russian tourists are stuck overseas, running short on cash and without functioning credit cards after their flights back home were canceled following Western sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Around 6,500 Russian tourists are stuck in Thailand—a popular vacation spot for Russians who accounted for the largest group of travelers to that country in February—due to flight cancellations, and many of them are left without functioning credit cards after Visa and Mastercard suspended service in Russia, the Associated Press reported.

The Russian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, told Reuters that there was “support from the government directly” to Russians stuck there, adding that Russia’s Pochta Bank is providing virtual cards using UnionPay, a Chinese credit card company.

Nearly 15,000 Russian tourists were stuck in the Dominican Republic as of March 2, AFP reported, and the country planned to provide accommodation to them for the time being.

Hundreds of Russians were left behind in Bulgaria, a popular destination for Russian skiers, as of March 1 after European countries closed their air space to Russian flights, Reuters reported.

There are few direct flights to Russia from leading international destinations after major foreign airlines suspended service to the country and the EU, U.S. and other countries closed their air space to Russian airlines, while Russian carriers have been forced to curtail service internationally over EU sanctions that have required foreign lessors to seek the return of their jets.

There are still ways to fly to Russia, including connecting through the Middle East, but not all Russians overseas may want to go home at the moment given the cratering economy and worries that President Vladimir Putin could declare a general mobilization.

Source: Thousands Of Cashless Russians Stranded Overseas Amid Flight Cancellations

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Critics:

Thai authorities later this year expect to drop most quarantine and testing regulations that have been in place to fight the spread of the virus, which would make entry easier for foreign travelers.

Thailand may have to lower its targets for tourist arrivals and revenues this year because of the knock-on effects of rising oil prices and inflation on global travel, Yuthasak was quoted saying by the Bangkok Post newspaper.

“Tourism is still a key engine to revive our economy, even though revenue was stymied by negative factors,” he said. According to the report, Thailand had projected gaining a total of 1.28 trillion baht ($38.4 billion) in revenue this year from foreign and domestic tourists.

There are few direct flights to Russia from main worldwide locations after main overseas airways suspended service to the nation and the EU, U.S. and different international locations closed their air house to Russian airways, whereas Russian carriers have been pressured to curtail service internationally over EU sanctions which have required overseas lessors to hunt the return of their jets.

There are nonetheless methods to fly to Russia, together with connecting via the Center East, however not all Russians abroad could need to go house in the meanwhile given the cratering economic system and worries that President Vladimir Putin might declare a normal mobilization.

More contents:

Cashless and flightless, Russian tourists stuck in Thailand (Associated Press)

Russian tourists in Indonesia without cash as sanctions bite (Reuters)

Nearly 17,000 Russian, Ukrainian tourists stuck in Dominican Republic (AFP)

Ukraine Says Russia Shelled Mosque in Mariupol
Russia Seeks Indian Investment in its Oil and Gas Sector
Concern Grows over Traffickers Targeting Ukrainian Refugees

Turkey, Armenia Hold ‘Constructive’ Talks on Mending Ties

Russia Warns EU of Soaring Energy Prices

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Ukraine’s Richest Man Says He’s Doing Everything He Can To Help His Country, And Sparing No Expense

On February 22, as hundreds took to the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine to protest Russia’s approach, the country’s richest person Rinat Akhmetov reaffirmed his loyalty to his nation and its government. Speaking from the port city of nearly half a million people where his mining conglomerate Metainvest is headquartered, he announced that he would continue to make investments in his businesses and country “no matter what dreadful scenarios we face.”

The son of a coal miner who grew up in Donetsk but has not been back since Russia’s invasion in 2014, Akhmetov knew how bad things could get. He had been hit hard by that earlier attack. Several of his assets—including real estate, dozens of gas stations and the home stadium of Shakhtar Donetsk, one of Ukraine’s most successful soccer teams—became virtually worthless overnight after the territories were seized.

This time he was preparing for the worst. “I have already instructed my foundation to help with evacuation, medicines and everything necessary, if needed. We will do everything to prevent a humanitarian disaster,” he said two days before Russia’s invasion.

Since then, his fears have come true as Russia’s ruthless attacks have reportedly left 1,200 dead in just Mariupol. On Wednesday, a maternity hospital there was destroyed by a Russian air strike. “I can’t wrap my head around the fact that Mariupol is in a complete blockade in 2022, that people are forced to hide in the workshops of our production plants,” Akhmetov said in written responses to Forbes Ukraine. “It is impossible to hear or talk about it without tears in your eyes that people melt snow and drink meltwater to stay alive. That a 6-year-old girl died of dehydration under rubble at the center of Europe.”

The billionaire, whose fortune has dropped from nearly $14 billion to less than $6 billion in just two weeks and may likely be much less, responded on Wednesday to questions from Forbes from an undisclosed location in Western Ukraine. His complete answers, provided to Forbes Ukraine, are below.


1. What must the West/the world do to stop Putin?

Akhmetov: “We see the united action of the western world on an unprecedented scale. I am deeply grateful to our international partners for that.

What else can and must they do? I believe everything that Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian President are asking for.”


2. What would be a ‘victory’ for Ukraine, in your opinion?

Akhmetov: “A total ceasefire, complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, and full restoration of the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine.That includes the Crimea and Donbas.”


3. Why the Russian forces target civilians, shell entire residential areas, and destroy cities? What are they aiming for?

Akhmetov: “What is unfolding here is a war crime and a crime against humanity, against Ukraine and the Ukrainians.This can neither be explained nor justified.”


4. Does this war go beyond Ukraine, is Putin aiming at Europe and the US?

Akhmetov: “Putin is aiming at countries that have democracy, freedom, and independence. So all the free world counties are potential targets. If Ukraine together with you fails to stop him, nobody knows who’s next.”


5. How is your company operating during this time?

Akhmetov: “In wartime, our company operates accordingly. Now our utmost goal is to help Ukrainians survive and withstand.”

Akhmetov: “What is unfolding here is a war crime and a crime against humanity, against Ukraine and the Ukrainians.This can neither be explained nor justified.”


6. What are your workers doing? Are they still being paid?

Akhmetov: “Yes, they receive salaries. Today, all our businesses focus all their efforts on helping people. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that Mariupol is in a complete blockade in 2022, that people are forced to hide in the workshops of our production plants. It is impossible to hear or talk about it without tears in your eyes that people melt snow and drink meltwater to stay alive. That a 6-year-old girl died of dehydration under rubble at the center of Europe.”


7. How are you using your international network?

Akhmetov: “SCM is an international company. Each of our employees is now using all their connections and opportunities to get the true information across to our international partners that peaceful Ukrainians are dying and suffering, that the tragedy is happening in our country.”


8. How do you help Ukraine and Ukrainians?

Akhmetov: “My Foundation is helping Ukrainians survive by providing water, food, medicines, and any help we can give here and now. SCM businesses are helping the army and territorial defense forces to defend our sovereignty, our freedom and independence, and win the war.”


9. How are you working with other business leaders?

Akhmetov: “I am working with my company and my people. I am doing everything I can. I am confident that other people are doing the same.”


10. Are you in touch with any Russian business leaders? Have any voiced any concerns about Putin’s behavior? Have any talked about trying to oust him?

Akhmetov: “No, I do not have any contacts with any Russian business representatives and I am not running any talks with any of them.”


11. How are you helping Zelensky?

Akhmetov: “First of all, we are helping Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. I have already said this: we are helping and we will keep helping people. And we will be helping our army and the territorial defense to stop the military aggression against our country.”


12. How are you spending your days now?

Akhmetov: “I am in Ukraine and I am not going to leave the country. I share the same feelings with all Ukrainians: I am sincerely waiting for the victory of Ukraine in this war. And we will start to rebuild the country to make it happier and more prosperous. On my end, I will spare no expense or effort to achieve this goal.”

Source: Ukraine’s Richest Man Says He’s Doing Everything He Can To Help His Country, And Sparing No Expense

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More News:

Russia’s Fighting a Media War, Too, With Platforms, Regulators, and Business Partners

Most of the international community is treating Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a gross violation of its sovereignty and international law. (Even the famously neutral Swiss are on board.) But the response being summoned isn’t just about economic sanctions or sending weapons — it’s also happening at the level of media.

There are two major fronts being engaged: the mostly U.S.-owned digital platforms through which Russians and Ukrainians communicate with each other and with the world, and the propaganda machinery Russia has managed to build inside Western countries. The pace of change has been dizzying, but here are a few of the most significant.

The platforms want to stop Russian propaganda outlets from making money.

Propaganda outlets like RT (formerly Russia Today) aren’t meant to be moneymakers, but the advertising infrastructure that allows them to generate revenue is nonetheless pushing back. Here’s Facebook:

Facebook says it has restricted Russian state media’s ability to earn money on the social media platform as Moscow’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine reached the streets of Kyiv.“We are now prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetising on our platform anywhere in the world,” Nathaniel Gleicher, the social media giant’s security policy head, said on Twitter on Friday.

Here’s Google:

Google barred on Saturday Russia’s state-owned media outlet RT and other channels from receiving money for ads on their websites, apps and YouTube videos, similar to a move by Facebook after the invasion of Ukraine.Citing “extraordinary circumstances,” Google’s YouTube unit said it was “pausing a number of channels’ ability to monetize on YouTube.” These included several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions, such as those by the European Union. Ad placement is largely controlled by YouTube.

Google added later that it was also barring Russian state-funded media outlets from using its ad technology to generate revenue on their own websites and apps. In addition, the Russian media will not be able to buy ads through Google Tools or place ads on Google services such as search and Gmail, spokesman Michael Aciman said.

Here’s Twitter:

Twitter has temporarily paused ads in Ukraine and Russia, one of several steps the company is taking to highlight safety information and minimize “risks associated with the conflict in Ukraine.”“We’re temporarily pausing advertisements in Ukraine and Russia to ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don’t detract from it,” the company wrote in an update that was also shared in Ukrainian. Twitter also said it’s temporarily halting the recommendations feature that surfaces tweets from accounts users’ don’t follow in their home timelines in order to “reduce the spread of abusive content.”

Russia wants to block independent sources of information, and the platforms want to restrain Russia’s reach.

Of course, eyeballs are more important than dollars in a propaganda war. Platforms can block disinformation campaigns:

Facebook and Instagram have taken down a disinformation network targeting people in Ukraine, as their owner announced it was blocking access to Kremlin-backed media organisations in the country.Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta said it had uncovered a “relatively small” network of about 40 accounts, pages and groups on the two social media platforms.

The network ran websites posing as independent news entities and created fake personas across social media including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram as well as Odnoklassniki and VK in Russia, Meta added.

But Russia can also block access to the platforms when they dare to fact-check:

The Russian government has partially blocked access to Facebook in the country after it claims the social network “restricted” the accounts of four Russian media outlets.In a statement on Friday, Russia’s tech and communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, said Facebook was violating “the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens,” and that it had recorded 23 cases of “censorship” by the social network since October 2020.

“On February 24, Roskomnadzor sent requests to the administration of Meta Platforms, Inc. [to] remove the restrictions imposed by the social network Facebook on Russian media and explain the reason for their introduction,” the Russian regulator said, adding that Meta “ignored” its requests…Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, confirmed that the company declined to comply with the government’s requests to “stop fact-checking and labelling of content posted on Facebook by four Russian state-owned media organizations.”

Russia can block access to independent media:

The Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine has played through a filter of propaganda here in Moscow, where the authorities appear concerned that ordinary Russians will be disgusted by scenes of missiles striking Kyiv and have sought to cut off the public from that uncomfortable truth.To do so, the Russian government has taken extraordinary steps by throttling Facebook and threatening to shut independent media outlets such as TV Rain and the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which published an edition in Russian and Ukrainian this week with the banner headline “Russia is bombing Ukraine”.

The media have been told to use only official government sources for their reports and not to use certain words to describe the operation. According to the Latvian-based Russian news website Meduza, the words are: “Attack, invasion, war.”

But journalists have their own ways to fight back:

Elena Chernenko, a journalist for the Moscow daily Kommersant, woke up Friday to find out that access to top government officials she’s had for over a decade had suddenly been revoked. Her crime? Publishing an open letter not criticizing the government but voicing her opposition to war. Over 280 other journalists signed Chernenko’s letter, including some who are employed directly by the Kremlin at state-run news agencies…In a country where journalists are regularly arrested and detained for little or no reason, publicly signing a letter opposing the government’s action is a brave thing to do, especially for those who have already been detained for their journalism.

One of those is Ilya Azar, a correspondent for Novaya Gazeta who has covered past conflicts in Ukraine. While he has been detained twice for his political activities, he didn’t think twice about signing the letter.

“We don’t have many instruments to influence the authorities in Russia nowadays, so we must use every opportunity,” Azar told VICE World News. “There wasn’t any doubt for me to sign this letter. This is very, very far from the required level of pressure on Putin to stop this fucking war, but at least this is something.”

Even those who probably should have known better pre-invasion can take a stand:

Opposition to coverage of Russia’s Ukraine invasion at Kremlin-funded RT has seen reporters quit and the website hacked, as MPs called on Ofcom to ban the outlet…On Thursday, two RT journalists Jonny Tickle and Shadia Edwards-Dashti left their jobs at the broadcaster, though only the former made clear he was resigning in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Tickle said on Twitter “recent events” forced him to resign from RT “with immediate effect”.

Since then, several more journalists have resigned from the service including presenter Danny Armstrong, producer Ross Field and French host Frédéric Taddeï, who said he had quit the show he presented out of “loyalty to France”.

Cable companies face pressure to cut off RT.

In Canada:

Canada’s largest television providers are removing Russia Today from their services after one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ministers said he opposed the state-owned Russian broadcaster’s presence on the nation’s airwaves.Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. said late Sunday that RT will no longer be available to their customers. The moves came one day after Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said the government would look at “all options” for eliminating the Kremlin-controlled channel from the Canadian broadcasting system, amid widespread fury over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In Australia:

The Kremlin-backed RT channel, which has reported that Russian troops are trying to liberate Ukraine, has been suspended by Foxtel in Australia.“In view of concern about the situation in Ukraine, the Russia Today channel is currently unavailable on Foxtel and Flash,” a spokesperson for the Foxtel Group said.

Foxtel made the decision on Saturday evening after monitoring the broadcast and stopped streaming RT at 5.45 pm on Foxtel and Flash. The satellite transmission came off the air at 6.40pm.

(It has always been strange, but after the past week, doesn’t it feel absolutely bizarre that so many American cable systems and even radio stations have been happy to take the Kremlin’s money to push out its propaganda? And newspapers’ hands aren’t clean either; to name just one,

The Washington Post has for decades run entire print sections of Kremlin- and China-supplied messaging as “paid supplements.” Between 2016 and 2020, China spent more than $12 million on advertorial in major U.S. newspapers, including the Post, the L.A. Times, The Wall Street Journal, and even the Des Moines Register. And I haven’t even mentioned the Saudis.)

Politicians and regulators both apply and feel that same pressure.

In the U.K.:

Labour has called for a ban on the Russian state-backed broadcaster RT, accusing the channel of pumping out pro-Vladimir Putin “propaganda”.Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, told MPs that the Russian president’s “campaign of misinformation should be tackled”, starting with moves to prevent RT from “broadcasting its propaganda around the world”.

The English-language channel is regulated by Ofcom, which said on Monday it would prioritise any complaints about any broadcast coverage of Ukraine “given the seriousness of the crisis”.

“All licensees must observe Ofcom’s rules, including due accuracy and due impartiality,” an Ofcom spokesperson said. “If broadcasters break those rules, we will not hesitate to step in.”

In Europe:

The European Union will ban Russian media outlets Russia Today and Sputnik, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday.Saying that the EU will ban “Kremlin’s media machine,” von der Leyen added that “state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union.”

“We are developing tools to ban the toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe,” von der Leyen said.

Here in the U.S.:

The Federal Communications Commission is on the hunt for companies it oversees that may have ownership ties to Russia, in a prelude to possible clampdowns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.The internal assessment, which has not been previously reported or publicly announced, was launched this week by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, according to a person familiar with the matter. It follows mounting scrutiny of Russian-backed programming on US airwaves, social media and other channels as the war in Ukraine unfolds.

Europe refuses to give Russia the cover of cultural exchange.

Throughout the Cold War, cultural diplomacyart exhibitions and concerts, people-to-people exchanges, the Peace Corps, and so on — were used by both sides to reduce tensions and to promote its view of the world. It may seem silly, but decisions like Eurovision booting Russia from its upcoming song contest is a meaningful attempt to block its use of that tool:

“The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s Contest would bring the competition into disrepute,” the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said in a statement. The decision to punish Russia culturally for invading Ukraine comes a day after the same group had said Moscow would be allowed to send an act to appear at the next Eurovision, scheduled to be held in Turin, Italy, in May.Ukraine’s public broadcasting company had asked for Russia to be suspended from the popular contest, which is watched by almost 200 million people each year. But the EBU, which has organized the contest since 1956, had insisted Eurovision was “a non-political cultural event”…

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday urged sporting federations around the world to pull events from Russia and Belarus, a Moscow ally that allowed Russian forces to use its territory to attack Ukraine…The Russian Grand Prix has also been canceled by Formula One, while the Champions League final is set to be moved from St. Petersburg. In New York City, Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, a friend and ally to President Vladimir Putin, was barred from leading performances of the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall.

Source: Russia’s fighting a media war, too, with platforms, regulators, and business partners | Nieman Journalism Lab

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How Social Platforms Are Responding To The Crisis In Ukraine

Russia’s invasion into Ukraine has caused global angst, putting the military super powers of the world at odds once again, and potentially forcing an intervention that could lead to one of the biggest conflicts in decades.

And unlike similar incidents in times past, this battle is playing out in the age of social media, with memes, misinformation campaigns and scams all adding to the growing maelstrom of information, which can confuse, contort and cloud what’s actually happening in the eastern European region.

Given this, and the role that social media now plays in the dissemination of information, the platforms need to work fast to limit any misuse of their networks for questionable purpose, and many have already enacted plans to mitigate certain elements of misuse and misinformation.

Here’s a look at what’s been announced thus far from the major social apps.

Meta

Facebook is at the center of the social media information flow within the conflict zone, with around 70 million users in Russia, and 24 million in Ukraine, approximately half of the total population of each respective nation.

Late last week, the Russian Government announced that it would restrict access to Facebook due to Meta’s refusal to remove misinformation warning labels on posts from state-affiliated media. Now, Meta has taken that action a step further, by also prohibiting ads from Russian state media, and demonetizing these accounts, severely limiting the capacity for Russian authorities to use Facebook as an information vector.

Russia, of course, does have its own social media platforms and messaging tools, so there are other ways for the Kremlin to communicate their activities and motivations to Russian citizens. But Meta has taken a strong stance, while it’s also restricted access to many accounts within Ukraine, including those belonging to Russian state media organizations.

In addition to this, Meta has also established a special operations center, staffed by native Russian and Ukrainian speakers, to monitor for harmful content trends, while it’s also added new warning labels when users go to share war-related images that its systems detect are over one year old.

Meta’s also outlined a range of safety features for users in Ukraine, “including the ability for people to lock their Facebook profile, removing the ability to view and search friends lists, and additional tools on Messenger”.

Thus far, Meta seems to be staying ahead of major misinformation trends in the conflict, though the amount of posts from spammers and scammers seeking to capitalize on the situation for engagement is significant.

UPDATE (2/28): Meta has also announced that it will restrict access to content from Russian state-affiliated media outlets RT and Sputnik in response to requests from EU officials.

YouTube

At the request of the Ukrainian Government, Google-owned YouTube has announced that it’s restricting access to Russian state-owned media outlets for users in Ukraine, while it’s also suspending monetization for several Russian channels.

YouTube’s also removing Russian state-owned channels from recommendations, and limiting the reach of their uploads across the platform.

As per YouTube (via The Wall Street Journal):

“As always, our teams are continuing to monitor closely for news developments, including evaluating what any new sanctions and export controls may mean for YouTube.”

In response, Russia’s state communications regulator has demanded that access to Russian media’s YouTube channels be restored on Ukrainian territory.

The situation is similar to Facebook, which could eventually see YouTube also face restrictions within Russia in response.

Twitter

As it looks to help ensure optimal flow of information for users within the impacted region, Twitter has announced a temporary ban on all ads in Ukraine and Russia “to ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don’t detract from it”.

Twitter banned political ads, including those from state-affiliated media, back in 2019, so it’s already ahead of the curve in this respect. The ban on all ads will help to clarify information flow via tweets, while Twitter additionally notes that it’s proactively reviewing Tweets to detect platform manipulation, and taking enforcement action against synthetic and manipulated media that presents a false or misleading depiction of what’s happening.

UPDATE (2/28): Twitter is also adding labels to Tweets that share links to Russian state-affiliated media websites, while it’s also reducing the circulation of this content by removing it from recommendations, downranking it in algorithm-defined timelines and more.

TikTok

A key platform to watch right now is TikTok, with reports that Russian-affiliated groups are using the app to spread ‘orchestrated disinformation’, while thousands of related videos are being uploaded to the platform, many fake, causing significant headaches for TikTok’s moderation teams.

The introduction of monetization incentives for popular clips has also added new motivation for bad actors to create fake streams and broadcasts in the app, in a bid to lure viewers, while on the other side, reports have also suggested that Ukrainian TikTok users are using the app to communicate Russian troop locations to Ukrainian fighters.

Thus far, TikTok has made no official comment on the conflict, nor how its platform is being used. And given that TikTok is owned by China-based Bytedance, and China has backed Russia’s action in the region (to some degree), it may not take a firm stance, officially.

But already, some are labeling this the ‘TikTok War’ given the way the platform is being used, which could force TikTok to take more definitive action, and it’ll be interesting to see if and how it does so in line with its links back to the CCP.

UPDATE (2/28): TikTok has now geo-blocked content from Russian state-affiliated media outlets for users in the EU. Those outside the EU can still access this content.

The conflict is a significant concern for all of the world, but most obviously for the Ukrainian people, and our thoughts are with those directly impacted by the conflict, and their families.

Hopefully, a peaceful resolution is still a possibility.

By: Content and Social Media Manager

Source: How Social Platforms Are Responding to the Crisis in Ukraine | Social Media Today

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