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Sen. Warner Warns Social Media Against Russian Info Warfare

Sen. Mark Warner at an event in 2020.
(Image credit: Sen. Mark Warner via Flickr and a CC By 2.0 license)

A former tech exec turned senator has officially cautioned edge providers against allowing their platforms to be used for Russian war propaganda, calling out YouTube in particular.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who co-founded Nextel, sent letters to Alphabet (Google, YouTube), Meta (Facebook), Reddit, Telegram, TikTok, and Twitter saying they need to make sure their companies are not used by Russia and Russia-linked entries, warning that influence operations are part of Russia's warfare playbook.

He cited what he said had been content on Russian-affiliated YouTube channels RT, Sputnik and Tass monetizing content about the Ukraine conflict, "including, somewhat perversely, an ad by a major U.S. government contractor. Meanwhile, Google’s wider ad network continues to support influence outlets such as Sputnik and Tass, directing advertising dollars from unwitting U.S. brands like Best Buy, Allbirds, and Progressive to entities whose ties to Russian influence activity has been well-documented for over five years."

Warner said social media should not abet Russia's efforts to "promote disinformation narratives that weaken the global response to these illegal acts."

He said while social media can be a valuable information tools and outlets for independent media, it can also be a "vector" for "misinformation and disinformation."

Warner asked the companies to, "at minimum":

  • "Establish mechanisms by which Ukrainian public safety entities can disseminate emergency communications to your users in Ukraine; 
  • "Furnish additional account monitoring and security resources to Ukrainian government, humanitarian, and public safety institutions to prevent account takeovers; 
  • "Surge integrity teams, including those with language expertise in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Romanian, and German, to monitor your platform for malign influence activity related to the conflict; 
  • "Devote additional resources towards the identification of inauthentic accounts, and the removal or labeling of inauthentic content, associated with Russian influence operations; and 
  • "Establish dedicated reporting channels for qualified academic, public interest, and open source intelligence researchers to share credible information about inauthentic activity, disinformation, and other malign efforts utilizing your platforms." ■
John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.