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Wars: Wordy, As Well As Worldly

It is seen that Ukraine has been trying hard to defend its territory since Russia launched a military operation in the neighbouring former Soviet Republic on February 24, 2022. At the same time, another battle between the two warring factions (and their allies) has been going on in the virtual world. Both the camps have put the social media organisations under pressure, in order to form public opinion in their favour. In other words, the Global Community has experienced a different form of diplomatic war in the 21st Century.

On February 25, Ukraine’s First Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Albertovych Fedorov called on Apple CEO Timothy Donald Cook, requesting the latter to snap all ties with Russia. Earlier, Cook had expressed serious concern over the condition of the Ukrainians. In a letter to Cook (posted on Twitter), the Ukrainian minister wrote: “I appeal to you and I am sure that you will not only hear, but also do everything possible to protect Ukraine, Europe and, finally, the entire democratic world from bloody authoritarian aggression – to stop supplying Apple services and products to the Russian Federation, including blocking access to App Store! We are sure that such actions will motivate the youth and active population of Russia to proactively stop the disgraceful military aggression.

US Senator Mark Robert Warner, too, strongly criticised the social media on February 25 for not playing their role in a proper manner. In a letter to Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google Sundar Pichai, the Senator from Virginia stated: “Your platforms continue to be key vectors for malign actors – including, notably, those affiliated with the Russian Government – to not only spread disinformation, but to profit from it.” He also accused Meta, Reddit, Telegram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube of continuing “to monetise the content of prominent influence actors… publicly connected to Russian influence campaigns“.

Later, the Western Media reported that Meta rejected the Kremlin’s request to remove the surveillance from information shared on this particular social media platform. Meanwhile, Meta issued a press release, mentioning that Moscow had asked the California-based multinational technology conglomerate (formerly known as Facebook Inc.) not to verify the details of the posts shared by four major Russian media outlets and to stop “content labeling“. As Meta rejected the request, Russia started controlling the use of the social media platform (Meta or Facebook), partially.

Experts are of the opinion that all the parties are trying to influence the social media, as these platforms reflect the views of a large number of people around the world. Dr Alina Polyakova, the President and CEO of the Centre for European Policy Analysis, tweeted: “Western companies have provided an online space for Russians to get information about the atrocities their government is committing in Ukraine. The Kremlin is moving aggressively to hide the truth through censorship. The Kremlin is moving aggressively to hide the truth.

Since these companies make money from advertisements while sharing information, they are not very proactive in controlling or verifying these pieces of information. Media Educator and Researcher Sambit Pal stressed: “Social media companies do little to prevent fake news on their platforms unless there is a lot of pressure. As their main aim is to make profit, they do not seem to have any issue with what information is being shared there.” As Meta has suffered huge financial losses due to the decline in advertisements in recent times, the technology conglomerate has started monitoring information shared on Meta. According to Pal, as all these companies are based in the US, they may be forced to bring some control over information, if Washington DC puts them under pressure.

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