Nov 1, 2017

Ukraine says it told Facebook about Russia's "information war" in 2015

Top lawyers for Google, Twitter, and Facebook (from left to right) testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP

The head of Ukraine's presidential administration, Dmytro Shymkiv, told the Financial Times that his country's government warned Facebook and U.S. officials in 2015 that Russia was using "aggressive behavior" to spread disinformation on social media in an "information war." Shymkiv said Facebook's response was that they're an "open platform" that allows everyone to communicate.

Why it matters: The Ukrainian assertions suggest that Russian fake news was detected much earlier than the tech giants have so far let on. Axios reported yesterday that a former FBI agent had detected Russia's use of fake news and automated bots in 2014. The investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and big tech's role has come to a head this week with interrogations of Google, Twitter and Facebook by both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Facebook's defense:

  • Richard Allen, Facebook's vice president of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa said the conversations the team had with the Ukrainian government in 2014 and 2015 were about Facebook's "handling of reports by Russians to get Ukrainian content taken down from our platform, not about fake news or attempts to spread messages."
  • He added that the reported behavior they observed "bore no resemblance" to information operations they saw in connection to the 2016 election.
  • "The Ukrainian government has more recently raised the issue of fake news with us but this was only in 2017 after the U.S. election," he said.

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