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Last Week Online #66 – Internet effects of the war in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Zelensky utilises the impact of Social Media when he needs to fight Russia in a war no one wants.

RT and Sputnik banned from broadcasting within the EU

The European Union has banned state-owned Russian news outlets Russia Today and Sputnik from broadcasting within the EU. This was communicated by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in a press conference on Sunday.

According to Von der Leyen, the purpose to ban the two outlets is "to fight" Russian disinformation. And the initiative was launched together with other actions, such as denying Russia to enter European airspace and providing weapons to Ukraine.

"Today we are taking a crucial step to turn off the tap for the Russian's information manipulation in Europe by banning Russia Today and Sputnik from broadcasting in the European Union" Josep Borrell, EU's High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in a statement.

Von der Leyen also acknowledged the leadership from Ukraine's President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people, pointing out that it is the first time ever that the European Union has taken measures of this kind.

TikTok overflow with content from the war in Ukraine

Since Russia started their invasion of Ukraine, TikTok users' opening the app will be met with a feed filled with war-related content. The TikTok algorithm rewards people who speak out about current events and content highly consumed by users on the platform, making the war content highly viral.

Several Russian influencers have been speaking out about their unease at the speed and brutality the Russian President is leading his country to war, many taking substantial personal risks by speaking up. On the other hand, Ukrainian influencers take a more immediate risk when actively documenting the horror playing out in their country.

However, much of the content claiming to picture the war in Ukraine is false and misleading. There have been examples of videos portraying old conflicts, scenes from movies and even video game battles shared as if they are showing on-the-ground live footage.

TikTok's community guidelines state that it bans misinformation "that causes harm to individuals," such as videos that incite hate or prejudice. However, footage misrepresenting scenes of war does not appear to explicitly violate the company's content policies.

Tech platforms pressured to take actions against Russia

Facebook and YouTube decided to block Russian state media from running ads on their platforms in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. "We are now prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetising on our platform anywhere in the world." Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Facebook, tweeted on Friday.

On Saturday, YouTube suspended several Russian state-media channels, including RT, from making money from ads. They are also limiting recommending those channels to users on the platform and have blocked the channels entirely in Ukraine on request from the Ukrainian government.

On Friday, Russian authorities had ordered the company to stop labelling and fact-checking posts from four Russian state-owned media organisations. "We refused. As a result, they have announced they will be restricting the use of our services," Nick Clegg, Meta's vice president of global affairs, said in a statement. He continued, "Ordinary Russians are using our apps to express themselves and organise for action. We want them to continue to make their voices heard, share what's happening, and organise through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger."

Hacker group Anonymous declared "cyberwar" on Putin

On Thursday, the global hacker group Anonymous declared a "cyberwar" against Vladimir Putin's government after mounting a full-scale Ukraine invasion earlier during the day.

The underground computer community announced on their Twitter account late on Thursday evening: "The Anonymous collective is officially in cyber war against the Russian government." Around 30 minutes later, Anonymous announced that they had taken down the website of state-owned TV channel RT.

The hacker group then followed by taking down the Russian Defence Ministry and Kremlin sites. The websites were inaccessible for several hours and not back up on Friday morning, only displaying an error message stating "this site can't be reached".

Action of the week:

Start a Twitter account if you don't have one.

Twitter is outstanding when it comes to reports from the war in Ukraine. Many of you are most likely already active, but if you are not, follow the simple instructions on the link above and start your account. Then, search for world leaders, journalists, and friends, to be able to follow them in real-time.