Microsoft is joining Facebook, YouTube and others in limiting the reach of Russian state media following the invasion of Ukraine. The company is responding to the European Union’s ban on RT and Sputnik by pulling those outlets from its platforms. Microsoft Start (including MSN) won’t display state-sponsored RT and Sputnik content, while all ads from either publication are banned across Microsoft’s ad network. The software giant is also pulling RT’s news apps from the Windows app store.
Bing will still display RT and Sputnik links. However, Microsoft is “further de-ranking” their search results to make sure the links only appear when someone clearly intends to visit those sites.
The crackdown comes alongside an update on Microsoft’s cybersecurity monitoring in Ukraine. The company noted that its Threat Intelligence Center spotted a wave of “offensive and destructive” cyberattacks targeting Ukranian online infrastructure just hours before Russia began its invasion on February 24th. The digital assault included new malware, nicknamed FoxBlade, and was “precisely targeted” like previous attacks. Microsoft said its Defender anti-malware tools was updated to counter FoxBlade within three hours of the discovery, and that it was advising the Ukranian government on this and other defense initiatives.
The bans on RT and Sputnik aren’t surprising even without the EU’s measures in place. Microsoft has fought disinformation campaigns for years, and it stressed that these attempts to manipulate the public are “commonplace” during wars when state propaganda ramps up. Simply speaking, Microsoft sees this as necessary to both present an objective view of the invasion and to avoid funding misinformation efforts.