Meta is ramping up efforts to crack down on Russian propaganda and keep users in Russia and Ukraine safe, including by offering encrypted Instagram direct messages in Russia and Ukraine and demoting Facebook posts by Russian state media outlets worldwide. The company will also demote Facebook posts from users who link to Russian state media, changes the company plans to bring to Instagram as well.
Meta president of Global Affairs Nick Clegg announced the new features Tuesday, adding that Instagram will be giving users notices that they can switch to encrypted chats. Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp already offer encryption. "We feel our priorities are first to continue to make our services available for people to use as safely and securely as possible," Clegg told reporters on a call.
Russia has already retaliated against Facebook's actions against state media outlets, announcing last week that it would begin partially restricting Facebook inside the country. Clegg said that "degradation of the service is definitely discernible," particularly when it comes to photos and videos. That poses an obstacle to anyone inside Russia hoping to document what's going on there for the outside world.
Clegg said Meta has been in contact with the government of Ukraine and is responding to government requests from all over the world, including requests that Meta completely block its services inside of Russia, which the company has refused to do. "We have explained why we don't agree with that," Clegg said. "We think it is essential, as long as this continues, that ordinary Russians can use our services to express themselves, organize and protest and reach out to family and friends in the wider community."
Meta has, however, responded to requests from the EU and Ukraine to block RT and Sputnik in the region. It's also prohibiting Russian state media from advertising or getting money from ads on its platforms.
Clegg emphasized that these safety measures are a work in progress and will likely change as the situation evolves. "We’re in a particularly unprecedented situation," he said. "This is a highly exceptional and tragic state of affairs."