At a time when Russia is advancing its troops towards Ukraine’s capital, big tech is facing a daunting challenge regarding misinformation that comes with the war.
Battlegrounds are famous for the conspiracy theories that may erupt from these fields over time. With the absence of media and the lack of on-ground journalists, Russians are leading these misinformation efforts to the extent that it can be life-threatening to thousands of people stranded in the war-troubled country.
These developments are happening at a time when Russia has put its nuclear forces at a high alert, an avenue of the unprecedented extent, and the closest the world has come to nuclear war since the Cold War Cuba crisis of 1962.
Big Tech Faces an Elephant in the Room in Russian Crisis
In the last few days, Meta, Twitter, Google, Telegram, and other social media outlets have been pushed to stop Russia from using their platforms to spread misinformation.
For instance, this Friday, Ukraine pleaded with Meta, Google, and Apple to restrict their services in Russia. This was followed by the actions of Google and Meta, which stopped Russia from selling ads on their platforms.
Likewise, another famous messaging app widely used in both Ukraine and Russia, Telegram, threatened that it would shut down war-related groups due to the pervasiveness of misinformation all around.
Twitter indicated that the platform would put a label on all those posts which link to Russian state-controlled media outlets, while Meta and YouTube even stated that they would cut down their services across the European Union to fend off any propaganda.
Google Maps started stopping displaying traffic information in Ukraine so that it may not be revealed where people are showing up as it can help Russia in orchestrating its attacks.
An Opportunity for Big Tech to Reestablish their Reputation
This event, when Europe is about to burn, is a sort of opportunity for Big Tech, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter, to mend their reputation after facing severe criticism over the last few years for their questionable policies and spreading misinformation while acting as a monopoly.
If the big tech manages to rein in falsified information, they would once again be able to come in good books of the lawmakers who lambasted them over time.
However, doing this is not as easy for big tech as it may seem. They have a hard choice to make as a bit of negligence can make the European and American lawmakers regulate them even harder, while Russia would probably ban them altogether.
All of them will have to act in the same way because if only some companies are putting sanctions on Russian users, others will be accused of doing too little to curb the misinformation.
This can even be more tricky considering that too many restrictions can even stop peacemaker Russians from communicating. As Putin decided to invade Ukraine, many Russians protested against him and ended up in jails with no certainty about their futures.
These protests could have never happened in the absence of social media; thus, digital platforms intensified the anti-Putin narrative at the end of the day.
Indeed this is the responsibility of big tech to control the flow of information on their platform in these testing times.
Otherwise, their existence would become questionable to a huge extent, and any future crisis will give these tech companies a difficult time again.
Big Tech should also take this as a learning opportunity since it is the first incident of its since the establishment of these companies.
But this surely is not the last one as China can invade Taiwan any time, seeing the persisting threats it has been given to the island in recent days.