During this bloody war, the Kremlin’s strategy in the West seeks to benefit by exploiting our fears of censorship. Of course, this obscures the dark irony that Russia tolerates no dissent within its borders, blocking independent media and platforms like Facebook. Just as stark is the hypocrisy of its effort to energize concerns about Western imperialism while waging an aggressive imperialist war against its neighbor.
War is always ugly. Yet since February, over every shallow grave left by Putin’s soldiers, an unofficial battalion of journalists and influencers has cast a shadow of Western denial.
Some assert that Ukraine has not been subjected to equal treatment by the social media platforms who are trying to enforce policies to mitigate circulating falsehood. One such argument came from the journalist Glenn Greenwald, who on April 13th echoed comments he made on Fox News, claiming “there is little to no censorship—either by Western states or by Silicon Valley monopolies—of pro-Ukrainian disinformation, propaganda and lies” and that “the censorship goes only in one direction.” Elon Musk, whose purchase of Twitter generated much push-back from technology experts, has made similar claims advocating free speech for Russia.
Social media companies in reality have removed multiple influence operations and reduced visibility of Russian government accounts spreading falsehood to support Russia’s war against Ukraine. Human Rights Watch offers an excellent overview of the different measures taken by the platforms during the war in Ukraine.