8 European Leaders Urge Big Tech to Stop Disinformation Amid Russia’s War in Ukraine

Amid growing worries about the insidious effects of disinformation from Russia, the prime ministers of eight European countries — including Ukraine, Moldova and Poland — have signed an open letter asking the chief executives of major social media companies to take more aggressive steps to halt the spread of false news on their platforms.

The letter released on Wednesday calls on leaders of companies including Meta, the parent of Facebook, to take action “against disinformation that undermines our peace and stability” and to stamp out efforts on their platforms “to weaken our support to Ukraine amid Russia’s war of aggression.”

“Tech platforms like yours have become virtual battlegrounds, and hostile foreign powers are using them to spread false narratives that contradict reporting from fact-based news outlets,” the letter says. “Paid ads and artificial amplification on Meta’s platforms, including Facebook, are often used to call for social unrest, bring violence to the streets and destabilize governments.”

The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia also signed the plea, which was released to coincide with the White House-led Summit for Democracy in Washington. The letter is addressed to the chief executives “of Big Tech.”

The national leaders ask tech companies to devote more resources to respond to false narratives; to adjust algorithms to prioritize accuracy and truthfulness over engagement; and to clearly mark deepfakes and automated posts, including those produced by artificial intelligence. They also called for more coordinated regulation from governments and better self-policing by tech companies.

The letter was spearheaded by Moldova, a small nation sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, whose government says that it has been the target of disinformation from Russia because of its support for Kyiv.

President Maia Sandu of Moldova last month accused Russia of inciting violence and of trying to overthrow her government, partly as a way of preventing her country from joining the European Union.

Moldova is home to Transnistria, a self-declared republic controlled by Russian-backed separatists. In February, forged documents purporting to show that the president was plotting with Ukrainian forces to invade Transnistria spread on Twitter and on the social messaging app Telegram.

Cristina Gherasimov, adviser on foreign policy and European integration to Moldova’s president, said in an email that the “very dire” problem of disinformation in Central and Eastern Europe had prompted the leaders to issue the letter, which would be posted to government websites on Wednesday.

Smaller countries in the vicinity of Ukraine “are fighting hard to contain the effect of disinfo on their societies,” she wrote in the email.

The letter is signed by Prime Ministers Dorin Recean of Moldova, Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic, Eduard Heger of Slovakia, Kaja Kallas of Estonia, Krisjanis Karins of Latvia, Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Ingrida Simonyte of Lithuania and Denys Shmyhal of Ukraine.

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