Russia Restricts Social Media, Workers Petition Facebook

  • Russian prosecutors, after consulting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, can determine that foreign Internet platforms’ restrictions on content violate the rights of Russians
  • The corresponding penalties will include fines and partial or full restriction of access to these infringing platforms in Russia.
  • Facebook content managers from the United States and Europe wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

According to reports, some senior members of the ruling United Russia party submitted a draft law, in which Russian regulators will be able to restrict Internet users’ access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The draft is aimed at countering the censorship of Russian media by some US platforms.

Twitter is a microblogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets.”  Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.

According to this draft, Russian prosecutors, after consulting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, can determine that foreign Internet platforms’ restrictions on content violate the rights of Russians.

The corresponding penalties will include fines and partial or full restriction of access to these infringing platforms in Russia.

The initiator of this measure said that since April, Russian media companies have been complaining that Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are censoring their accounts.

In response, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call, “of course, this requires careful study.” He added, “I think that in the process of debating the draft law we will find the right mechanism.”

“The discriminatory behavior of these services against Russian customers has occurred and we must fight back.” However, Peskov did not clearly state that the Kremlin supports such measures to restrict access, saying that legal procedures will be used to determine appropriate sanctions.

This move was ridiculed by Alexey Navalny, the unofficial leader of the Russian opposition. Navalny said on Twitter, “it’s great to get them through as soon as possible, and eventually everyone in the country starts to use VPN.”

Facebook Content Managers Risked their Lives

According to reports, more than 200 Facebook content managers from the United States and Europe wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking him to allow them to stay at home during the new coronavirus pandemic.

The content managers expressed the hope that Facebook can continue to work from home, while providing risk subsidies, stopping outsourcing, and providing “real” health care and mental care services. A Facebook spokesperson said that the company appreciated the actions of its content managers and decided to put their health and safety first.

The letter, which was published Wednesday, reads:

“We, the undersigned Facebook content moderators and Facebook employees, write to express our dismay at your decision to risk our lives — and the lives of our colleagues and loved ones — to maintain Facebook’s profits during the pandemic.”

It continues, “after months of allowing content moderators to work from home, faced with intense pressure to keep Facebook free of hate and disinformation, you have forced us back to the office.”

Web content manager

As one of the world’s largest social media giants, Facebook has been working hard to prevent problematic posts, photos, and videos from appearing on its platform. It has outsourced most of its content to companies such as Accenture and CPL.

This open letter was also copied to Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, and CPL CEO Anne Heraty.

Just last month, there were media reports that despite some protective measures, CPL’s Facebook content managers were forced to work in their Dublin, California offices, while Facebook’s own employees could work from home.

The salary of these outsourced content administrators is much lower than that of ordinary Facebook employees. They claimed in the letter that Facebook’s artificial intelligence software cannot detect all content that violates Facebook’s corporate policies.

“Before the pandemic, content moderation was easily Facebook’s most brutal job,” reads the letter. “We waded through violence and child abuse for hours on end. Moderators working on child abuse content had targets increased during the pandemic, with no additional support.”

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Joyce Davis

My history goes back to 2002 and I  worked as a reporter, interviewer, news editor, copy editor, managing editor, newsletter founder, almanac profiler, and news radio broadcaster.

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