The United States has so far sent more than $75 billion to Ukraine in order to finance its war against Russia. This is not the only assistance the U.S. Government provides to Ukraine as it fights to repel the invasion. According to a report by journalist Lee Fang, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also providing assistance to Ukraine in its efforts to combat Russian misinformation on social media.
According to a senior Ukrainian official that regularly corresponds with the FBI, the agency has pressed Facebook to remove “disinformation” from Russia based on Ukrainian intelligence requests. Fang and I spoke at the RSA Convention – a yearly gathering of cybersecurity companies, tech firms, and law enforcement agencies.
“Once there is evidence of disinformation campaigns on Facebook or through other U.S. resources, we send this information directly to the FBI and also write to Facebook,” said llia Vitik, the head of Ukraine’s Department of Cyber Information Security within the country’s Security Service.
He explained, “We have asked the FBI to support us in Meta and other areas, and we sometimes get good results.” “We say ‘Okay this is the person that was probably Russia’s influence’.”
The official acknowledged that the term “disinformation”, which they use, is broad. They often target social media accounts or posts that contradict the narrative of the Ukrainian government. Vitiuk said he supported free speech, but that the steps Fang took to protect Ukraine from Russian propaganda were necessary.
He said that it was difficult to distinguish between fake and true information in a world of constant information. “I tell people, ‘Everything against our country is fake, even if not.’ It is very important that we do not be fooled.
Ukrainian authorities claim Russian forces are using disinformation tactics to incite false tensions between President Volodymyr Zaluzhnyi and Valerii Zaluzhnyi – the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s army – in order to sow confusion and cause problems in Ukraine.
Fang’s article raises concern about the FBI’s influence on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Reports and congressional hearings have investigated the role of the Bureau in shaping the content moderation decisions for the 2020 elections. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, social media companies are actively looking for foreign propaganda.
Twitter Files revealed the agency and other government agencies have been censoring American accounts and postings. It is not known yet how much work Bureau does at the Ukrainian government’s request.
In their attempts to counter Russian disinformation these tech companies suppress independent reporting and opposing views regarding the military conflict, say critics. Leaked documents reveal that the government intends to use social media platforms more to remove “disinformation,” related to U.S. assistance for Ukraine. Vitiuk is not bothered by these concerns. He acknowledged that the government cares more about narratives than facts.
It is unclear how much influence the U.S. intelligence and military have had on social media discussions about the Ukraine-Russia conflict. There are several reports of FBI agents contacting Twitter executives regularly to urge them to remove Russian content.
It is important to note that our federal government works at the request of a foreign country in order to censor specific types of content. The state does not only send a lot of money to the Ukrainian government but also redirects resources to support their propaganda.
Fang’s Report did not say explicitly whether these censorship techniques also targeted Americans. However, the Twitter Files reveal that this possibility is not impossible. Vitiuk stated that they would consider any information that contradicts their preferred narrative as disinformation. This would be true even if the source was American. How long will the U.S. continue to get away with it?