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Facebook Under Fire For Putin Propaganda Push

Mark Zuckerberg's social network has been spreading pro-Russia disinformation in one of Ukraine's neighboring countries.

Tech guru Mark Zuckerberg and his social media behemoth Facebook  (MVRS) - Get Meta Report have had their share of scandals.

Whether it was allowing users to post about ways to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, or allowing analytics company Cambridge Analytica to harvest data from tens of millions of users, both Zuckerberg and Facebook have faced major criticism as the company has grown and evolved.

Sometimes that criticism has found its way all the way into the U.S. Congress, where lawmakers have called on Zuckerberg again and again to explain Facebook's behavior — and its lack of user protections.

The number of scandals that Facebook has had to field and unwind are too numerous to list here — you can read a fuller accounting in this analysis — but they seem to have a common theme.

Primarily, that both Zuckerberg and his leadership team are struggling to oversee and moderate the vast amount of content flowing out of the platform.

In many cases, that inability to flag or stop dangerous content has lead to the platform broadcasting everything from live mass shootings to inciting ethnic cleansing in places like Myanmar.

There was also an entire American presidential election hacked by Russian bad actors, an area of the world that is of particular concern currently for the company.

Now Facebook is being hit with another round of claims that it hasn't been enforcing its own internal policies on content — and the consequences could be deadly.

Pro-Putin Propaganda Appears

A close neighbor to Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia in March, Slovakia has apparently been inundated with conspiracy theories spread on Facebook.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on May 23.

Facebook is now facing a slew of accusations that it has allowed users to disseminate pro-Putin and pro-Kremlin propaganda throughout Slovakia.  

Facebook has only one person who fact-checks its information in Slovakia, a nation of more than five million people.

Both the Slovak government and and American officials have pressed Meta, the parent company of Facebook, repeatedly to do something to stop the spread of false, harmful anti-Ukraine messaging.

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-CA, outlined the issue in a letter to Zuckerberg.

"Despite multiple efforts by the Slovak and United States governments to bring the matter to Facebook’s attention, to the Committee’s knowledge, the company has yet to take appropriate action," the letter reads.

Think tank GLOBSEC security said that the falsehoods have been spreading rapidly, causing a massive security crisis for both the country and nearby Ukraine.

“Half of the population is prone to believe in some kind of misinformation or conspiracy theories,” said GLOBSEC analyst Dominika Hajdu.

Authorities Issue Scathing Letter to Facebook

GLOBSEC told the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that it has seen evidence of a massive proliferation of false information flooding out from Facebook into Slovakia.

“The Committee is deeply concerned by the continued presence of harmful disinformation and pro-Russian propaganda on Slovak Facebook,” Schiff's letter said.

“[Meta must] immediately to ensure that all pro-Russian disinformation is quickly evaluated, fact-checked, and labeled, downranked, or removed in accordance with Facebook’s public pledges and stated policies.” 

What Kind of False Information is Being Spread?

The disinformation flowing from Facebook users into Slovakia has included the following claims: 

-- That Putin's invasion didn't happen at all

-- That Ukraine is developing biological weapons

-- That Russia had to invade Ukraine to “denazify” the country

All of those statements and thousands of others like it have received a stern rebuke from American lawmakers.

“The Slovak authorities [are] rightly troubled by these developments,” the members wrote. 

“One senior Slovak defense official described Facebook as ‘the main arena for Kremlin propaganda.’ Yet despite Facebook’s awareness of the issue, the pervasive and false content seems to remain on Facebook’s platform.”