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House Intelligence Committee Members Demand Facebook Address Pro-Russian Disinformation on Slovak Facebook

This week, Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence delivered a letter to Meta Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, demanding Facebook address the dangerous spread of pro-Russian disinformation on the company’s platforms in Slovakia – which has grown more acute in recent weeks as pro-Russian actors have been weaponizing disinformation about the war in Ukraine.

“The Committee is deeply concerned by the continued presence of harmful disinformation and pro-Russian propaganda on Slovak Facebook, and urges Facebook immediately to ensure that all pro-Russian disinformation is quickly evaluated, fact-checked, and labeled, downranked, or removed in accordance with Facebook’s public pledges and stated policies,” wrote Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Congressmen Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), and Jason Crow (D-Colo.).

During a congressional delegation to Bratislava, Slovakia in April, members of the Intelligence Committee were briefed by Slovak government officials and civil society groups about the ongoing proliferation of pro-Russian disinformation on Slovak Facebook, spread by a group of identifiable pro-Russian actors during elections, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and now against the backdrop of Vladimir Putin’s bloody war in Ukraine. 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. And despite pledging to devote “significant resources” to its fact-checking operation in Eastern Europe, public reports indicate Facebook has only one fact-checker dedicated to Slovakia. Facebook has agreed to brief the committee in the coming days.

“The Slovak government is rightly troubled by these developments. 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,” the members continued.

Specifically, the Committee is requesting a briefing from Facebook on:

  • The content the Slovak government has brought to Facebook’s attention as harmful disinformation, and the status of that content;
  • Any investigation Facebook has undertaken into the actors identified as spreading pro-Russian disinformation about the war on Slovak Facebook, the types of pro-Russian disinformation content spread by those actors and others, and actions taken by Facebook in response;
  • Facebook’s plan for proactively identifying harmful disinformation in Eastern Europe going forward; and
  • The specific number of fact-checkers, personnel, and other resources Facebook will devote to identifying harmful disinformation on the war in Ukraine in Eastern Europe, broken down by country, and including the language capabilities of the fact-checkers and other content moderation personnel.

To read the full letter, click here.