Friday, December 8

Why does Twitter mark some accounts as members of the Russian Government?

Journalist Esther Yáñez posted on Twitter on Tuesday that the platform had put her, overnight, the label “government member, Russia”, a badge that appeared in the profiles of several reporters who had indicated in their biography that they worked for state media in that country such as ‘Russia Today’ or ‘Sputnik’. Sergio Pintado, a Uruguayan journalist, published a screenshot of the notification that he claimed to have received on his phone: the same, Twitter “labels media operated by media outlets affiliated with the Russian government” in order to give its users more context. In case you want to know more, they offer you a generic link: [email protected].

But on the official Twitter channels there is no communication announcing this policy of singling out people disseminating information from the official Russian media. The only measure that they have announced these days is to label the messages of these media, as reported by the company’s chief of security, Yoel Roth, in a thread on February 28: “We are adding labels to tweets that share links to media websites affiliated with the Russian state and we are taking steps to significantly reduce the circulation of this content on Twitter.” said the representative of the company one day after the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen announced that the European Union would seek mechanisms to ban the broadcast of ‘Russia Today’ or ‘Sputnik’ on the continent for “spreading lies to justify Putin’s war.”

Both Yáñez and Pintado, among others, they deny in their messages any link with the Russian state and they assure that they are journalists who circumstantially work for these media. Yáñez, who also highlighted in his profile that he works for Mediaset or ‘Vice’, retweeted a post from ‘Sputnik TV’ in Spanish on Tuesday with the link to an interview that she herself had done to a Spanish singer known as La Pili for a network program that she hosts, Sin Tapujos, and for which she has interviewed personalities such as El Cejas or Camela. A ‘scroll’ through her Twitter profile in recent days shows that her main activity was to retweet correspondents from generalist media (‘El País’, ‘El Mundo’, ‘Associated Press’ or ‘5W’) who they work on the ground to explain the war in Ukraine. On Wednesday, his account was unavailable.

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A measure that comes from 2018

Twitter started dialing user accounts in 2018with the candidates for midterm elections in the United States. Later, at the end of 2019the company announced that they were re-introducing these badges for the 2020 presidential candidates. On August 6 of that yearTwitter announced that it was “expanding the types of political accounts they tag” to users representing these States abroad, for example, presidents, foreign ministers, diplomats or institutions. In a first phase, it started with the five members of the United Nations Security Council (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China) and from 2021 added to the list another dozen countries, including Spain, which includes the members of the G-7 and other countries where the social network had detected “information operations” with intent to manipulate.

In addition, the platform added to the list public media in some of those countries. “State-affiliated media outlets are defined as outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressure or control over production and distribution”, explains the company in a statement available on their website. “Accounts belonging to state-affiliated media entities, their editors-in-chief and their senior staff can be tagged,” he adds.

From the very beginning, Twitter differentiated itself from public media such as the BBC in the United Kingdom or NPR in the United States, from Russia Today, which the same day it received the label posted a post criticizing the measure. RTVE or TV3, by the way, are part of the group of the BBC and NPR that do not have the badge of media affiliated with the State. But Twitter does not explain the specific reasons why it considers that a medium has state affiliation while the other maintains independence. ‘Russia Today’ has traditionally been linked to the spread of disinformation. In 2017, attempted to create a ‘fact-checking’ section that was not impartial and therefore, was not recognized by international verifiers and in 2018 she was sentenced in the UK for impartiality by the UK communications regulator.

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Verify has contacted Twitter Spain to better understand what criteria it uses to flag accounts, but at the time of publishing this article, we hadn’t heard back.

YouTube and Facebook also close accounts

The decision of limit the transmission of ‘Russia Today’ or ‘Sputnik’ in Europe, confirmed by the Community Parliament on Tuesday, has not only had consequences on Twitter. On Tuesday, the channels of both platforms in Spanish (both in Facebook What Youtube) appeared as unavailable to Internet users trying to access from the European Union.

For its part, Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram) has also announced measures to limit the diffusion of these media in the continent, in addition to prohibiting accounts linked to Russian disinformation from monetizing their content on their platforms. “We have received requests from several governments and the European Union to give further steps in relation to the Russian state-controlled media. Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we are going to restrict access to RT and Sputnik in the EU.” announced on Twitter Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, on Monday.

On Tuesday, Zuckerberg’s company announced its privacy policies. limit the ability to promote ‘posts’ or monetize their activity on the company’s platforms. On Saturday, Google announced a similar measureblocking the ability of RT and other Russian outlets to receive money of your ads on your websites, apps and YouTube videos.

Movement to closed platforms

When Twitter expelled Donald Trump from his social network, a large number of his followers migrated to other platforms such as Telegram. This messaging application exceeded 500 million users in January 2021, including groups trying to escape from the measures that the big social media companies They are taking on misinformation.

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Related news

Unlike Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, instant messaging applications like Telegram or WhatsApp allow their users to create groups or private channels where to share information that can escape the traditional moderation filters of companies. Even though WhatsApp is one of the main channels of disinformation, it cannot really function as a social network because the groups only reach 256 users, while on Telegram they can reach 200,000 accounts in private spaces.

Even so, Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, declared on February 27 in the context of the war in Ukraine, which is aware that Telegram channels “are becoming more and more an unverified source of information” and that it is considering “totally or partially restricting” the activity of some channels if the “situation in Ukraine escalates.”

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