Countering Russian misinformation a ‘comparatively easy’ problem to solve

Social media companies are exploring how to counter misinformation related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Twitter just announced it will begin labeling content from Russian state-affiliated media websites.

Sarah Kreps, professor of government and international relations and the director of the Cornell Tech Policy Lab at Cornell University, studies the weaponizing of information and disinformation. Her most recent research found, in some cases, false tags actually lead to more social media sharing of bogus COVID-19 claims.

“Social media platforms have had conundrums with how to handle misinformation having to do with the U.S. president, COVID-19, and vaccines," Kreps said. "Disinformation tied to the Russian government is a comparatively easy policy problem for these platforms to solve.

“Russia's invasion of Ukraine has failed so miserably in the court of public opinion that social media platforms can be fairly heavy-handed in labeling Russian content as misinformation and not be seen overstepping in terms of content moderation but rather doing the right thing.

“All of the major platforms appear to be taking some action that would reduce Vladimir Putin's ability to use social media to manipulate public opinion.

“Some critics have said that the platforms are addressing pro-Putin content in an ad hoc way, but the fact is that the situation of a large, nuclear-armed, non-democratic country trying to occupy its democratic neighbor is unprecedented, certainly in a social media age. These platforms are looking for an approach that defaults to free speech without enabling or abetting Russian influence operations.”

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