U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was joined by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in calling on the CEOs of Meta, Twitter, and Telegram to substantially increase efforts to moderate content by Russian state media services RT en Español and Sputnik Mundo – the cornerstone of the Kremlin’s Spanish language disinformation and propaganda system – as Putin’s illegal war against Ukraine rages on. The senators’ call comes against the backdrop of persistent and growing efforts by Russia to target the Western Hemisphere through information operations, particularly through Spanish-language disinformation, with a goal to spread falsehoods about Putin’s actions in Ukraine, polarize societies, and ultimately undermine democratic governance in the region.
“As Putin’s regime takes increasingly draconian measures to prevent its own citizens from accessing the truth, by blocking social media and stamping out any remaining semblance of independent media in the country, Russian state media continues to exploit the platform provided by [Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Telegram] to amplify and export its lies abroad,” the senators wrote. “[D]isinformation campaigns by Russian state media’s Spanish-language outlets targeted at Latin American and Caribbean audiences regularly reach Spanish-speaking communities in the United States, directly harming our national interests. We are deeply concerned by reports that the operations and reach of such outlets have only increased amid Putin’s actions in Ukraine.”
The senators also called on the platforms to dedicate additional resources to ensure parity between efforts to identify and moderate the spread and amplification of all Spanish-language disinformation content about Russia’s vicious assault in Ukraine and efforts to mitigate the spread of such disinformation in English.
“In these extraordinary circumstances, we must remain vigilant about the ability of known purveyors of Russian disinformation to propagate falsehoods about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, whether in Spanish or any other language,” the senators added.