As Putin kills civilians, Google caves to Kremlin censorship demands

Big Tech companies are controlling what billions of people see and hear about Ukraine. That’s a problem.

The world has learned horrifying new details about Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine, including mass graves and summary executions of civilians.

And thanks to reporting by The Intercept, we know that as these atrocities were being committed, Google was helping the Putin regime keep the Russian people in the dark about the war by requiring translators to abide by Russian censorship laws.

Our reporting has also revealed that Facebook is now allowing users to praise a Ukrainian neo-Nazi military unit previously banned from being discussed under the company’s policies — as long as users are “explicitly and exclusively praising their role in defending Ukraine.”

With little expertise and even less accountability, Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google are making life-or-death decisions about what information people... see in the middle of a war.

That’s why The Intercept has been closely following and reporting on the decisions made by the Big Tech giants relating to the invasion, including what content they promote and suppress and how those decisions may affect public opinion.

If you care about the war in Ukraine, then you must care about Big Tech, and we’re counting on the support of readers like you to help fund these critical investigations.

Will you make a donation to help The Intercept uncover the truth about how companies like Facebook and Google are controlling what people around the world see and hear about the war in Ukraine?

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Our team uncovered internal company emails showing that Russian translators working under contract for Google had been instructed not to use the word “war” to describe the war in Ukraine. Under pressure from the Kremlin, Google caved, and readers in Russia now see the war described in euphemistic terms like “extraordinary circumstances.”

Meanwhile, we discovered that Facebook is temporarily allowing its billions of users to praise the Azov Battalion, an armed wing of the Ukrainian white nationalist movement that’s now involved in fighting the Russian occupation. Azov had previously faced a “Tier 1” ban alongside groups like the Islamic State and the Ku Klux Klan.

The Iraq War likely could not have happened at all without the complicity of the corporate media in selling President George W. Bush’s lies about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. The Vietnam War might have continued years longer without millions of Americans seeing the bloody chaos on their TVs every night.

Likewise, the direction and outcome of the war in Ukraine will be determined in large part by what people see and hear about the war online.

The Intercept believes that there must be transparency and accountability for how Big Tech companies make decisions around content moderation, amplification, and censorship. That accountability will not happen without investigative journalism.

With your help, our team of investigative journalists will continue to dig deep behind the scenes to expose the truth about Big Tech’s response to the war in Ukraine. Will you make a donation to help support the nonprofit investigative journalism of The Intercept?


Thank you, The Intercept team

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