Facebook’s – now “Meta’s” – CEO Mark Zuckerberg is no stranger to scandals and has been called before Congress several times to explain the social media giant’s policies and practices. Now, Adam Schiff and other members of Congress have taken Zuckerberg to task for allowing Vladimir Putin to spread propaganda and lies deeply into Ukraine’s closest neighbor, Slovakia.
Zuckerberg and Congress have often been at odds over his social media platform’s inability to flag or stop dangerous content. This has led to Facebook broadcasting everything from live mass shootings to inciting ethnic cleansing in places like Myanmar.
Now Facebook is being hit with another round of claims that it hasn’t been enforcing its own internal policies on content — and the consequences could be deadly for Ukrainians doing their level best to fight back against Russian aggression.
A close neighbor to Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia in March, Slovakia has apparently been inundated with conspiracy theories spread on Facebook.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on May 23.
Facebook is now facing a slew of accusations that it has allowed users to disseminate pro-Putin and pro-Kremlin propaganda throughout Slovakia.
Facebook has only one person who fact-checks its information in Slovakia, a nation of more than five million people.
Both the Slovak government and American officials have pressed Meta, the parent company of Facebook, repeatedly to do something to stop the spread of false, harmful anti-Ukraine messaging bleeding into Slovakia.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-CA, outlined the issue in a letter to Zuckerberg.
“Despite multiple efforts by the Slovak and United States governments to bring the matter to Facebook’s attention, to the Committee’s knowledge, the company has yet to take appropriate action,” the letter reads.
Think tank GLOBSEC security said that the falsehoods have been spreading rapidly, causing a massive security crisis for both the country and nearby Ukraine.
“Half of the population is prone to believe in some kind of misinformation or conspiracy theories,” said GLOBSEC analyst Dominika Hajdu.
GLOBSEC told the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that it has seen evidence of a massive proliferation of false information flooding out from Facebook into Slovakia.
“The Committee is deeply concerned by the continued presence of harmful disinformation and pro-Russian propaganda on Slovak Facebook,” Schiff’s letter said.
The dangerous disinformation flowing from Facebook users into Slovakia has included the following claims:
- That Putin’s invasion didn’t happen at all
- That Ukraine is developing biological weapons
- That Russia had to invade Ukraine to “de-nazify” the country
All of those statements and thousands of others like it have received a stern rebuke from American lawmakers.
“The Slovak authorities [are] rightly troubled by these developments,” the members wrote.
Schiff’s letter concluded, “One senior Slovak defense official described Facebook as ‘the main arena for Kremlin propaganda.’ Yet despite Facebook’s awareness of the issue, the pervasive and false content seems to remain on Facebook’s platform.”