House Democrats urge social media platforms to preserve potential evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

Top House Democrats wrote letters to the chief executives of four major social media platforms on Wednesday, urging them to preserve and archive content related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that could be potential evidence of war crimes.

The lawmakers asked Meta, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok to preserve and archive posts related to the conflict “that may provide evidence of war crimes or human rights violations,” establish a mechanism with human rights-specific organizations to share that content and create a way for content depicting a possible war crime to be flagged by the platforms’ users.

“Often, images and videos of these despicable acts and their aftermath have been recorded and shared on social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“If verified as authentic, this content could provide the US government and international human rights investigators with a trove of evidence that would help to substantiate allegations of war crimes and other atrocities committed by Russian forces against the people of Ukraine.”

The top House Democrats underscored the importance of their request by noting that artificial intelligence-enabled and automated systems, and other means used by social media platforms to take down graphic posts, may be removing content from their platforms that could be used as possible evidence of human rights violations.

“We are concerned that social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, do not have adequate procedures in place to archive this content so that it can be made available to international organizations conducting investigations into allegations of war crimes and other atrocities,” they wrote to Zuckerberg.

“Without proper archival procedures and mechanisms in place, the removal of this content means ‘valuable evidence … can be effectively lost forever,’ further hindering the ability of investigators to collect, examine, and verify evidence of human rights violations and war crimes,” they added.

The letters were signed by House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory W. Meeks (DN.Y.) and Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Bill Keating (D-Mass.)

The development comes after Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed last month that the United States was assisting Ukraine in collecting and preserving evidence of possible war crimes.

The Hill has reached out to Meta, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok for comment.

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