Russian Government Conspiracy Theories About Ukraine Hospital Removed By Facebook, Twitter

Russian Government Conspiracy Theories About Ukraine Hospital Removed By Facebook, Twitter

Mariana Vishegirskaya standing outside of a Mariupol bombing damaged maternity facility … [+]Ukraine. 9 March 2022. Vishegirskaya survived shelling, and then gave birth in another Mariupol hospital to a little girl.


Facebook and Twitter removed posts from nearly 20 Russian embassies around the globe this week in an effort to end a Kremlin disinformation attack on a Ukrainian hospital.

The embassies had used the social media sites to post videos, text and photos claiming Russia hadn’t attacked the facility, which was struck by Russian forces last week, killing at least two adults and a child. Among other claims, the faked content questioned the authenticity around a picture of a dying woman carried on a stretcher, a photo that has rapidly become one of the war’s most iconic images. FakeReporter was the Israeli research group that first spotted this disinformation.

An onslaught of misleading or inaccurate information has flooded onto social media during Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, at least some of it distributed by Russian authorities—often directly through official accounts. It has been difficult for social media to decide what to do when it comes to government accounts. Usually, they conclude that tweets are more newsworthy than any harm.

Generally, they’re no more regulated than another user’s account, but the Ukraine war has reignited questions about whether a government account should be held to a higher standard, similar to the debate around the platforms’ decision to ban or suspend President Trump in 2021 Twitter and Facebook have both already restricted the reach of Russian-affiliated media outlets by limiting their circulation.

“We’re focused on keeping people safe, remediating abuse and elevating reliable information,” a Twitter spokesperson says. Facebook couldn’t be reached to comment.

The embassy posts weren’t taken down all at once, further reflecting the challenges the platforms face when contending with an expansive campaign. Twitter and Facebook immediately removed the posts by the Russian Embassy in Britain regarding the bombardment of Mariupol on March 9, 2019. It would be several days before they realized that similar content had been published by Russian embassies located in Japan, Greece, Japan, and Denmark.

The embassies also shared the same content on Telegram, including through the channel run by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While it is no longer available on Facebook or Twitter, Telegram so far has taken no action to eliminate it.

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