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EU’s Breton wants Google, YouTube to ban war propaganda accounts


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market speaks during a signature ceremony regarding the Chips Act at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 8, 2022. Virginia Mayo/Pool via REUTERS

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Inc and its YouTube unit should ban users pushing war propaganda as part of measures to stop disinformation after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU industry chief Thierry Breton told the chief executives of the companies on Sunday.

Alphabet’s Google on Saturday barred Russia’s state-owned media outlet RT and other channels from receiving money for ads on their websites, apps and YouTube videos, similar to a move by Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) after the invasion of Ukraine.

In a video call with Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Breton said the companies should go further.

“Freedom of expression does not cover war propaganda. For too long, content from Russia Today and other Russian state media has been amplified by algorithms and proposed as ‘recommended content’ to people who had never requested it,” Breton said in a statement after the video call.

“War propaganda should never be recommended content – what is more, it should have no place on online platforms at all. I count on the tech industry to take urgent and effective measures to counter disinformation,” he said.

Breton said the companies’ terms and conditions for users should be expanded to include war propaganda, giving them the power to kick violators off their platforms.

The commission said there was agreement to adapt and update the platforms’ policies in view of the current situation.

European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova also took part in the video call.

“I expect YouTube and Google to step up efforts to address Russian war propaganda. Russia has weaponised information, this is why platforms cannot be a space for its war lies,” she said in a statement.

Google said it had already taken unprecedented steps to halt disinformation on Ukraine.

“As we said to the Commissioners, our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock and are ready to take further action,” a Google spokesperson said.

Banning accounts promoting war propaganda could be problematic, however, because of the difficulty of defining what constitutes propaganda and from whose perspective.

EU’s Breton wants Google, YouTube to ban war propaganda accounts

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