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Censorship or fighting disinformation? Russia to use AI to create controversial ‘fake news’ filter, as Facebook efforts stall

Censorship or fighting disinformation? Russia to use AI to create controversial ‘fake news’ filter, as Facebook efforts stall
Russia plans to create a data service to tackle 'fake news,' the country's media watchdog Rospechat said on Tuesday. US social media giant Facebook has also attempted to construct a similar system but progress has been slow. 

The automated editor's job description will include “comparing as many news-related facts as possible” and “finding the wrong ones,” Rospechat's deputy chief Ilya Lazarev wrote in a letter to the Ministry of Communications, which was quoted by Moscow business daily RBK on Tuesday.

Rospechat expects the counter-misinformation aggregator to be completed by 2023 and hopes to make it available to both organizations and individuals. In order to get the project moving, the watchdog has requested 94.3 million rubles ($1.3 million) from federal authorities. 

Previously, Human Rights Watch - an American lobby group bankrolled by George Soros - has claimed that the Russian government has been building “an entire arsenal of tools to reign over information, internet users, and communications networks” which could further suffocate independent media in the country.

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Rospechat's fake news filter is somewhat similar to a tool Facebook has been attempting to create. In 2016, its founder Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to develop a 'misinformation' filter but four years later, there is still no sign of it. Zuckerberg admitted then that the problems were “complex, both technically and philosophically.

Russia has significantly expanded laws and regulations tightening control over internet infrastructure, online content, and the privacy of communications.

If carried out to their full restrictive potential, the new measures will severely undermine the ability of people in Russia to exercise their human rights online, including freedom of expression and freedom of access to information.

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