Facebook took down 289 pages connected to Russian news website

17 Jan 2019

Facebook removed pages linked to Russian Sputnik news website for having breached the platform’s terms of services. The pages mispresented their identities, pretending they were independent news services or fan pages related to celebrities, regions and food. Facebook found out that at least 75 accounts belonged to Sputnik’s employees and often had posts with anti-Nato, protest and anti-corruption content among pictures of chocolate cakes, food recipes and cats. The platform suspect that it was a strategy to attract an audience interested in this type of content. Not rarely, these pages would post a link to a Sputnik article. The pages had around 700,000 followers. Facebook has struggled to remove illegal content and pages which violate its terms of services after having been charged liable for illegal political ads and content in the last American presidential elections. 

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Intermediaries play a vital role in ensuring Internet functionality. In several Internet governance areas, such as copyright infringement and spam, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are considered key online intermediaries. In other areas, such as defamation and the so-called right to be forgotten, the responsibility extends to hosts of online content and search engines.

Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.

One of the main sociocultural issues is content policy, often addressed from the standpoints of human rights (freedom of expression and the right to communicate), government (content control), and technology (tools for content control). Discussions usually focus on three groups of content:

 

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