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New Russian Law May Make Legitimate Reporting a Crime; The "Soda Straw" Perspective of Modern Warfare; Big Tech Takes Action Against Russian Propaganda; How CNN Verifies Social Media Videos From Ukraine; Videos From Ukraine Show Graphic Death And Destruction. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired March 06, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter, live in New York. And this is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the story and to figure out what's reliable.
This hour, talking about the media world, we're going live to the war zone, talking about how news crews are dealing with dangers in Ukraine and Russia.
Plus, what's being underappreciated in all the news coverage? We're going to get perspective from Thomas Friedman, Jim Sciutto and more.
And later, as Facebook is now banned inside Russia, an executive from Facebook's parent company Meta will join us live.
But, first, the Kremlin is criminalizing journalism about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russian officials are building digital and legal walls to shield citizens from the truth and people in other countries are also noticing the consequences. Maybe you've noticed this weekend as a viewer, because this weekend, all the major American networks stop broadcasting live broadcasts from Russia. Networks based in the U.K. and Italy and other countries have done the same thing.
"The Washington Post" and other digital outlets have stopped putting reporters' names and location on their stories from Russia in a bid to protect them. Stripping bylines and stopping live shots and suspending operations, these are extraordinary measures that are being taken to protect staffers, not from physical bombs as in Ukraine, but from potential retaliation and prison time in Russia.
This all started when Vladimir Putin signed a censorship bill into law on Friday, rendering it impossible for news outlets to accurately report the news in Russia. The law made it a crime to spread information deemed false by Russian authorities.
Remember, regulators in the country earlier warned Russian media not to call an invasion an invasion, not to call the war the war. So, when this law passed with reported penalty of 15 years in prison, news rooms convened urgent meetings about what to do.
The BBC said the law appears to criminalize the process of independent journalist and said it had to suspend operations in the country. "Bloomberg" said the law seems designed to turn any independent reporter into a criminal purely by association, making it impossible to continue any semblance of normal journalism inside the country.
This is also why you have not seen live shots from Russia on CNN recently. A CNN spokesperson said the network, quote, will stop broadcasting in Russia while we continue to evaluate the situation and our next steps moving forward.
This also includes CNN's live broadcast into Russia which used to be available, accessible in places like hotels. At this time, some correspondents in Moscow are staying in the city, I've confirmed that with multiple sources, multiple networks today, but those correspondents are basically in a holding pattern.
As the "Wall Street Journal" put it, quote, the top priorities are the safety of our employees and covering this important story fairly and fully. But you can only do the second part of that if your people are protected.
So, for now, reporting from Russia is very limited, security is paramount. On this program, we scrapped an interview we had planned and booked with a former RT staffer inside Russia out of concerns that they could violate the new law and they could wind up behind bars.
So who ultimately loses as a result of this censorship? Everyone loses. And the Russian people lose the most. The country becomes even more isolated.
Reporters are stopped from sharing the perspectives of Russians, stopped from telling their stories. Putin has been tightening the screws against the press for years, pressuring independent outlets that have now folded, blocking news websites, pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda instead. Putin is putting up walls, making it harder to tell the story of Russia.
But history tells us one thing, information always finds a way, a way under, a way over, a way through, a way out.
With me now, Robert Mahoney, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Also with me, Julia Ioffe, founding partner and Washington correspondent for Puck. And Thomas Friedman, the acclaimed foreign affairs columnist for "The New York Times."
Thank you all for being here.
Robert, what's the latest you know about conditions in Russia for reporting? What am I leaving out or what is important to add here about the situation this weekend?
ROBERT MAHONEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS: Well, we have had several thousand people arrested, Brian, in anti-war protests and among those is at least eight journalists that we believe have been picked up and maybe dozens more. So those journalists that are trying to venture out, these are Russian journalists trying to report are being arrested. STELTER: So, you're concerned about basically local reporters,
Russians, who are trying to cover these protests who are being swept up and arrested as part of them, is that right?
MAHONEY: That's correct.
I mean, they can't report on the war anymore. As you said, they can't call a war a war, and many of those independent journalists have fled to neighboring countries. One of them I spoke with today said basically the Russian media is dead.
STELTER: The Russian media is dead.
Julia, is that your assessment as well? You've been contacting many friends and colleagues in the country, some of them leaving the country.
Is it that bleak, that Russian media is dead?
JULIA IOFFE, FOUNDING PARTNER & WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, PUCK: Yeah, I'm afraid it is. You know, there has been a crackdown for a long time, as you noted, and especially in the last year since Alexei Navalny returned from Germany there was a real crackdown, a lot of independent news organizations were labeled foreign agents, they had to comply with onerous reporting requirements to the state and this is kind of the end.
To have a radio station like the Echo of Moscow, Ekho Moskvy, go off the air, I mean, this was a radio station that was founded in the Soviet Union, the only time it ever stopped broadcasting was during the August 1991 push when tanks rolled into Moscow. To have TV Rain go off the air after over a decade of broadcasting.
Lots of journalists have fled, a lot of them can't access their funds back home, ironically because of the sanctions which are hitting them as well. So, you have this group of -- I mean, there's almost no journalists left in Russia in terms of independent journalists, and it's not clear where Russians can get real information on what's going on in the war.
They can use VPNs to bypass these censorship requirements by the state, media watchdog, they can, you know, try to find it through Telegram. But, again, you have to now exert a lot of fortunate to find out what's really going on in Ukraine, and if you just watch state TV everything is going great, there are no refugees fleeing the, quote, unquote, liberating Russian army, nobody is bombing civilian homes. So it's really, I think, affecting Russian popular opinion about this war because they're getting such skewed information.
STELTER: Such skewed information.
To your point there are some ways to get around these digital walls. The BBC is promoting a new shortwave radio service into Ukraine and parts of Russia, also promoting a web browser called Tor that allows people sometimes to get around these walls, but these are real -- very real challenges.
Thomas Friedman, is there any analogy, anything analogous to the situation where you have correspondents from major networks, from the U.S., U.K., other countries that are stopping broadcasting from Russia, "Washington Post" taking away by lines for reporters in Russia to protect them. Is there anything analogous to this in history?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I really can't think of it, Brian. What I was going to say before I came on the show is Putin is re-Sovietizing the whole Western society in terms of closing and limiting freedom of information. But really those of us who wrote from the soviet union, I as a diplomatic reporter going back and forth we never had these kind of restrictions.
I thought he's re-Stalinizing it, you know, taking us back, but I think he's taking us a place where Russia has never been before. This has become a sealed room. Now, that's one thing in normal times that's often. But when you're in a war when things are moving very, very fast, and you need to have really current information to make good decisions, not only is Russian society blinded but so are Russian leaders.
How many times have I been in offices in places like Russia and in Russia where CNN is on the background or BBC? They also know where the real information is coming from.
So I find this terrifying at every level, the societal level but also what this means for how Putin will make decisions. Because on this kind of low income system, it's already low number because it's a one- man regime, this is terrifying.
STELTER: What is the part of this complex story, Thomas, that's getting the least amount of attention that is underappreciated and needs more reporting? Is it the economic angles of the story?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know I think that people don't fully understand starting with Putin how tied Russia's economy is to the globalization system, how many Russians knew that Russian airlines didn't own their own airplanes, that they're owned by Irish leasing companies, the vast majority of them who under sanctions have until the end of March to repossess them and move them out of Russia.
What is a country with 11 time zones do when it has virtually no domestic airline? We get into really scary scenarios. Does it slowly start to fracture?
The other point I would simply make is the thing I'd like to know mostly on a granular level what is going on on the ground because I don't rule out the possibility that despite the firepower of Russia, that the Ukrainians won't win or hold these guys to a draw for a long enough time for the entire world to assemble against them.
So those are the two things I'm looking at most.
STELTER: Julia, what about you? What's the most underappreciated angle right now that reporters need to focus in on?
IOFFE: Oh, there are so many, but I do think this -- this idea that Russians are just not getting any real information about what their own country is doing in Ukraine and, again, there are ways to access it, but you really have to try, you have to expend a lot of effort and the people who are going to do that are the people who are going to be against the war anyway.
Going into the war when there was still some sources of independent information, you had something like two-thirds of Russians who favored a war with Ukraine, and I don't know what that's going to look like going forward. How we even measure that in a closed society, in a closed system with no real information and where people are scared to say the truth.
You know, I have a friend who is from -- whose family is from a small Siberian village and they got their first coffin the other day back from the war and his family said we're not going to talk about this because of this new law where you can get up to 15 years in jail.
I think, you know, you have to understand that Russia is not the U.S. and a lot of ways but a 15-year sentence in Russia is insane. There are much shorter prison sentences, ironically, in Russia and a 15-year sentence is draconian.
Also I just want to add to Tom's point even during Stalin's time there were foreign correspondents in the Soviet Union, even Stalin allowed them to kind of more or less do their work.
STELTER: We are edging closer to a situation where Russia is like China or even North Korea in terms of access, even though, as I said, for now, there are correspondents there and for their own safety and security, they are laying low for the time being.
All right. So I think we've conveyed just the enormity of this, Robert, the enormity of this blackout happening in multiple directions and we will get into the tech angles in just a moment.
Just to circle back with you, Robert, so people understand what groups are you doing at the moment. What are you doing to support Russian reporters and reporters in the country, and Ukraine as well?
MAHONEY: Well, they're very different. First of all, the Russians who have left from some of the organizations like Rain TV and others, they want to -- they're going to need help to set up news rooms in exile, to be able to continue to report as much as they can. We've been here before with Syria, where my group helped Syrian journalists set up news rooms outside of Syria after they had to evacuate because otherwise we are not getting the kinds of reporting from inside the country that we need.
We've seen it in other countries like Burma, for example, where one of the most reliable sources of information now comes from Oslo, Norway, by exile journalists.
In Ukraine, what we're hearing from journalists -- Ukrainian journalists on the ground is that they desperately need more training in how to do the reporting, they need equipment, personal protection equipment like jackets and helmets, they need very basic stuff because let's not beat around the bush, when the situation on the ground in Ukraine becomes too dangerous for foreign crews and TV teams to be there, they will withdraw, but they will rely upon Ukrainian journalists to continue doing reporting and those journalists -- many of them are woefully unprepared for this kind of brutal conflict.
STELTER: Rob, Tom, thank you very much.
Julia, please stick around.
We're going to turn to the Ukraine story next. Anchors like around Anderson Cooper are telling the story of Ukraine from inside the country. NBC is about to announce that "Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt is also anchoring from Ukraine starting tonight.
We're going to go live to CNN's Jim Sciutto there in just a moment.
Plus, I know you keep hearing about geolocating videos, but what does it actually mean? We're going to show how CNN verifies social media videos before airing them.
STELTER: We're only seeing the Ukraine war through soda straws. Think about this. It was an expression I first heard during the Iraq war, reporters embedded with American troops would say they are only seeing the soda straw view of the world, just one perspective from one location. Of course, with digital media we're able to see through multiple soda straws at the same time.
But the analogy is significant. It's important to recognize there are so many known unknowns amid this conflict.
CNN anchor and chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto made this point on twitter, he said: Let's be humble about our battlefield vision. In many places, we have a peephole view of the fighting. We don't know the counts of personnel and equipment losses. They're hard to confirm with confidence. The overall picture is fluid.
Sciutto is with me now from Lviv, Ukraine.
So, Jim, how do we confirm what we do know? Tell us about the known unknowns there in Ukraine.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There are a lot of handy caps, right, in this particular conflict. One side, Russia, is opaque. There are no journalists with them and they deliberately lie, they hide casualties, they hide equipment losses and there's no way from that side to counteract that except what we see from this side, which are, sadly, dead Russian soldiers and destroyed Russian vehicles and aircraft. On the Ukrainian side, we have more vision because they're sharing
more images. But remember, we also have to acknowledge they are in the midst of an information war as well. Propaganda is part of fighting a war and you want to keep up the spirit of the population and the troops so they're going to accentuate the positive successes and deemphasize the negatives.
Then we have our people, particularly CNN spread across the country often at great risk to themselves and their teams who give you multiple soda straw, right, a pair of eyes in Kharkiv or our pairs of eyes in Kyiv, others in other cities across the country though moving as the risk profile changes.
But, again, if it's not one soda straw it's several. So, making a judgment as to where this conflict stands on any given day requires that humility because we don't know the whole picture and invariably, you know, we're human beings. So, we are going to want to see some things happen, right, perhaps even against our own nature as journalists and that may not be happening in that given moment.
I think just as a reporter, I'm conscious of that every day with all the developments we see. Carry some humility to it and try to express that in all honesty to your viewers.
STELTER: Right. And what about the safety precautions as a factor, a big factor in all of this? We all saw that video of the Sky News crews being shot at, sustained injuries in some cases. There have been other close calls in the field as well.
What are the practical steps that the crews are make taking in Ukraine to stay as safe as possible?
SCIUTTO: Well, in my time and I will tell you watching that video is gutting because we have all been in situations like that, we have all made decisions to drive down a road like that Sky team drove down that road. In my time offering Iraq and Afghanistan, this conflict and others, all the journalists I've known, almost without exception, who were killed or injured were not doing outrageous things, right? Were not taking outrageous risks, they were taking calculated risks, as we all do and judging them every day, but got in the middle of it, right?
An IED goes off, the crossfire finds you, the bullets that whizzed over someone's head did not whizz over those other person's head, and this conflict someone of those conflicts. There are a lot of journalists in this country, a lot of gunfire, there's a lot of imprecise weapons, particularly on the Russian side, and that means God knows civilians are getting killed left and right, but journalists may, too.
The one thing that is different and more dangerous about this conflict is in Iraq or Afghanistan, the other side, right, the Taliban or the Iraqi insurgents were largely limited in their weapons, right? They didn't have aircraft, for instance. They didn't have cruise missiles. They didn't have bombers flying at 36,000 feet. Russia does. And they are more powerful. So that means the crossfire
by its very nature is more dangerous, and that means more risks for civilians certainly but also for the journalists covering it.
STELTER: Right. Thank you, Jim. We will see you again soon here on the air.
STELTER: So, how are Ukrainian citizens getting the news? Well, Ukraine 24 is a 24/7 news channel in the country that has managed to stay on the air amid the invasion.
Kateryna Fedotenko is a host with the network and she's joining us. We're going to see if this live shot works.
Kateryna, you're traveling. You're in the car. Tell us where you're going right now and why.
KATERYNA FEDOTENKO, HOST, TV CHANNEL UKRAINE 24: Okay. Yeah, hello, Brian.
I'm really glad to be on air with you these days and we really appreciate that you help us to tell the world, what is really happening in our country. Before I answer your question, I would like to say thank you to American people who support us and also to American president who was one of the first of leaders like world leaders who supported us officially. That is really important and we really need it and that makes us really strong.
Talking about the work and conditions during the work, during the war, I would like to say that it's very hard to work during the war physically both and psychologically, but we continue broadcasting all day and all night because people in Ukraine they need us and they need to know what is really happening in our country.
So as far as you have already mentioned, there are lots of fake information spread by Russian propaganda and we journalists in Ukraine, we have to dispute it to tell the world truth because we know there in Russia they say that they are not bombing us from the air, they don't touch civilian people, but we see with our eyes how civilian people are dying, how children are dying.
So that is also an information war, information drones (ph) in Ukraine. Now --
STELTER: So --
STELTER: You view yourself as fact checking about matters of life and death. Can you show us where you are right now and what you're doing?
FEDOTENKO: I'm on the Poland-Ukrainian border. I'm not sure I can show you it.
Like -- so this is the cue to leave Ukraine to move to Poland. I would like to tell you that Ukraine 24 hour media group, we have our head of it in Kyiv. It still works. There are a lot of journalists and a lot of TV hosts, et cetera.
But we also have created a new point in Lviv and now we are on our way to Poland, a small group of our team, to create a new point to have more possibilities to work during the war because, you know, something can happen with the signal and we have already seen that Russia has tried to destroy our TV tower.
So that's why we need to have all the opportunities, all the possibilities to use them to tell the world the truth.
The person before me like I think seven minutes ago he tell -- he told that Ukrainian journalist, we are not prepared to work in these terms, but I wouldn't say so because we are -- we have the work in our country during last eight years. Our journalists, they are working in Donbas during all of this since the war began.
So we have the opportunity, we have possibilities, we have everything to work during the war, but -- and our journalists they are equipped and they are as safe as they can be because we also have the shelling from the air. So that's why we are not safe from this kind.
That's why Ukraine and the Ukrainian president and all the people in Ukraine, we are asking the world to close the sky. That's it.
STELTER: And your message is heard loud and clear right now.
Kateryna, thank you for coming on the program.
FEDOTENKO: Thank you very much for having me. We appreciate this.
STELTER: She's saying a backup to the backup in case the broadcast has to move.
We have much more ahead this hour including breaking news about protests in Russia, also details about restrictions on social media in the country. What is Facebook's status right now?
Emily Dalton Smith is an executive from Facebook's parent company Meta. She will be with me in just a moment. Stay right here.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES, I'm Brian Stelter. One of the biggest stories right now on the media beat is the information not getting out of Russia -- reporting not getting out of Russia, but what about information not getting into the country? Over the weekend, Russian media regulators, saying, they're blocking Facebook. Users there now see a message it says this site cannot be reached when trying to log on to the world's most popular social media platform.
However, there is no mention of Instagram or WhatsApp being banned. Those are reportedly actually more popular in the country than Facebook and they're all owned by Facebook's parent company Meta. We know about restrictions against Twitter and other social media apps as well -- as well as of course blocks have against many news websites. So there is this digital wall for information trying to get into Russia and it is affecting Facebook and its parent company Meta.
Joining me now, Meta Vice President of Social Impact, Emily Dalton Smith. Emily, thanks for coming to the program. Do you have any updates about Instagram or WhatsApp being blocked inside Russia?
EMILY DALTON SMITH, VICE PRESIDENT OF SOCIAL IMPACT, META: Well, thanks for having me, Brian. Um, it's an evolving situation so we're watching with everyone else but the thing that's most important to know is that we're doing everything we can to restart our services and make sure that all of our services, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, remain available for people to safely and securely express themselves, to stay in touch with their friends and family, and really to make sure that their voices are heard that they're getting the information they need. So we're doing everything we can and we'll keep doing that.
STELTER: So it is certainly in your company's interest to have people be able to access these platforms, both in Russia and Ukraine. Meadow announced $15 million in aid, some of it actually goes into journalists in Ukraine. Tell us about that.
SMITH: Well, we've committed $15 million in donations for humanitarian relief to support journalists for connectivity. And it's been incredible to see our whole community come together. In addition to our contribution, our communities raised more than $20 million from 650,000 people across the world for nonprofits. It's pretty amazing. You know, the average donation is $38, which really just shows that people are giving whatever they can to help the people of Ukraine.
STELTER: Doesn't this show Meta taking aside? And I say that not as a criticism. We've seen lots of big companies side with Ukraine over Russia. But was that -- was that a hard conversation internally, or was it a no-brainer?
SMITH: I -- you know, we've been working on crises for the past several years, unfortunately, and so when this happened, we were able to react quickly. You know, we've always been in favor of helping people express their voices it's part of our mission, helping people stay connected and so in addition to all the actions that we've taken to preserve connectivity and people's voices, we've also been working around the clock to make sure that the community can rally and support one another. You know, it's incredible.
We have people who have started Facebook groups to help the people of Ukraine. You know, hundreds of thousands of people trying to meet them at the border. We've got a group in Poland that's volunteering to help meet people at the border, find them shelter, get them food, help them with medication needs, there are people in Romania who are doing the same thing and have organized to help refugees, so we've really been doing everything we can learning are our lessons -- drawing on our lessons from the past several years. STELTER: And here's a headline from Engadget the other day. Facebook turns on the lock profile tool for people in Ukraine. Twitter did have a version of this as well. What is this mean? What is the -- what is this tool and what's it all about?
SMITH: Well one of the most important things, you know, we've heard from people on the ground and our partners, is that people need to have their privacy and they really need to be sure that their profiles are safe and secure and that no one can see them. So we've allowed people to lock their profiles. That means that their friend lists are private, and no one can go in and look at your profile and see who you're connected with or what you're doing in Ukraine. On Instagram, we're also showing people alerts about how to protect their accounts. We want to make sure that everybody has the information they need about how to stay safe.
STELTER: Emily, thank you very much for explaining it to us today. Thanks for being here.
SMITH: Thank you.
STELTER: Let's talk more about this with Yael Eisenstat, a former official at Facebook, she has more than 18 years of experience in national security, she's now a Future of democracy Fellow at the Berggruen Institute, also with us, Julia Ioffe of Puck News, and CNN Senior Media Reporter, Oliver Darcy.
So, you know, your view so far of these big tech platforms, all of them in one way or another taking stands against Russia, whether that's diminishing or blocking Russia today's state-funding content, whether that is denouncing Russians actions, is this a -- are we going to look back at this as a pivot point in history in terms of the big tech platforms taking action into the war?
YAEL EISENSTAT, DEMOCRACY FELLOW AT THE BERGGRUEN INSTITUTE: Yes, I'm really glad actually, that you brought up the point about are they taking sides?
EISENSTAT: So up until this moment, Meta and Facebook have been very clear that they want all the benefits of dominating the world's communications without any of the responsibility of having to take sides or get caught up in geopolitical conflict.
EISENSTAT: And now, it's very clear, there is no choice, they have to take sides. And so I think a few things -- really interesting things that this demonstrates is that, first of all, they can use all of these tools, they have them, it's always a choice of whether or not they do enact the kinds of protections that people want to see. But just one really quick point is it's -- you have to be able to hold two thoughts in your head at the same time on this one. And that is that all of the most amazing parts about social media that
are really important, whether that be allowing dissidents to communicate, whether that be being able to counter the propaganda of a state leader, we're seeing all of the things that we want social media to do in the world, while also recognizing that at the end of the day, these platforms aren't just neutral. And then we do at some point after this conflict is over, have to reckon with how a company like Facebook did allow Russian propaganda to use all the tools that Facebook provides to help fracture democracy for years.
STELTER: That's something -- yes.
EISENSTAT: So two ideas at the same time.
STELTER: Oliver, that's something you pointed out when you broke the news that RT America, this American network that is backed by Russia was breaking down this week, that it lost carriers from DirecTV, that it's not going out of business, and the people that have been laid off. So RT America is no more, but it existed for many, many years. And that's the good -- the big point, perhaps.
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes. And also, if you go on YouTube in the U.S. -- if you go on Facebook in the U.S., you can still access RT. So these companies haven't actually taken worldwide action outside. I think Roku is being the only tech company that has taken worldwide action against RT and Russia-backed media. What you've seen is actually, Facebook and Google and these big tech companies take action in Europe, where they were going to be forced basically by this EU Commission to take action. So I view this as big tech being acquiesced to Europe into bowing to pressure from lawmakers --
STELTER: Bowing to pressure, yes.
DARCY: -- Versus actually taking a principled stance. And I'm not really sure that sets a great precedent because there are a lot of countries out there that wants tech companies to censor -- to ban things and when Facebook and these other companies, basically acquiesce to their demands without giving a principled stand or making a principled stand, that's a little bit worrisome. It would have been better if they had, you know, said, we don't want this on our platform, we're taking it down worldwide, versus this weird geo- targeting that they've done.
STELTER: Well, here's a live demonstration of what you're saying. So here's the Russia Today Live YouTube channel, right? And what's the headline? It says Putin announces a special operation.
STELTER: Right. So they're still claiming it's not a war or something, it's not an invasion, they're still toeing the Kremlin line, and it's live on YouTube for all to see. But Julia, this raises really thorny questions really quickly about censorship. You know this is always going to be complicated -- well, you tell me, Julia, did they think it's a complicated choice or not for these platforms? IOFFE: Well, I think it is. So I do want to clarify that RT, Russia Today, is not just Kremlin-backed, it's 100 percent Kremlin-owned and Kremlin-funded. I think, you know, these platforms were allowed to exist that they were -- they were envisioned in a society that is free and open. And they weren't -- it was not anticipated that there were other countries, other societies that would use this very openness to its advantage and weaponize it for its advantage.
The other thing I think that is very interesting when we talk about the censoring, the blocking of Twitter, Facebook, things like Apple Pay, Apple no longer exporting its products to Russia, this gets back to our earlier segment with Tom Friedman. You know, there's a whole generation of Russians, mostly younger, who are used to living in an interconnected world. They're used to having access to Facebook. It is one of the most popular platforms in Russia. They're used to have Twitter, Instagram, all these and you know, being able to travel, etcetera, a certain lifestyle that is now completely being taken away from them, including the social media aspect of it.
And the question is how are they going to respond? If the state seems to have foreseen that, they're thinking of passing a law that would take anyone who was jailed while protesting and send them directly to the army.
STELTER: Incredible. Yael, what -- a lot of this is about questions and answers. What are the big questions you have, as we head into another week of this, Russia being shunned by the world, Russia responding by shunning the world as well, blocking access to almost everything? What are the big questions on the table now?
EISENSTAT: Sure. So again, Putin has always been playing a long game, whereas our companies like Facebook and Twitter are constantly morphing at the moment, right?
STELTER: Quarterly, they get about profits, yes.
EISENSTAT: Yes. So I think moving forward, we really need a clear, transparent policy of how these companies are going to deal with wartime leaders, how they're going to deal with authoritarian leaders, who will use the same tools that benefit open democracies, in a way to suppress their own citizens? So these are really important questions.
And one thing about state media, I don't want to leave it to Susan Wojcicki and Mark Zuckerberg to decide what to do about Russia Today. So just a really quick point about Russia Today, or Sputnik, or the other tools of Russian propaganda, it's one thing to debate whether or not you think they should have the right to use the internet at all. That's a very open free speech debate. It's another question to ask why were these companies monetizing Russia Today until just, recently, which implies --
STELTER: They're making money out of it, interesting.
EISENSTAT: -- They were allowing them to run ads, which also implies they were allowing them to benefit from targeting tools from amplification, from boosting, from things that are not just about speech, but that we're actually allowing these companies -- Russia Today and other arms of Putin's propaganda machine to target different citizens with different messages.
EISENSTAT: That cannot continue if these companies want to actually be part of the global democracy.
STELTER: Right. All right, thank you all for being here. Oliver, more with you in a moment. We have breaking news from inside Russia in a moment plus, what you see in your feed, and why it's not always the full picture? We're going to show you how CNN is verifying images from the warzone before broadcasting them to the world.
STELTER: And this, just into CNN. We've been talking this hour about the difficulties of reporting from within Russia due to a new law passed that is basically tamping down independent reporting. There are, however, still ways to get information out of the country. This, just passing from CNN's international desk in the first few minutes -- in the last few minutes. At least 4357 people have been detained during protests in Russia on Sunday, today. That's according to OVD- Info, an independent monitoring group that tracks detentions in Russia. 4357 people detained in 56 cities, according to OVD-Info. Let's let those numbers sink in for a moment. Protests, anti-war protests in at least 56 cities in Russia.
Now, the number of detainees is constantly changing, that number 4000, something that's going to change, but this is really important to know that despite all the restrictions, despite Putin clamping down a free press in Russia, despite him trying to stop these protests, there are major protests in the country, 56 plus cities.
Reuters, confirming the news this way, saying they're using videos posted to social media, by opposition activists and bloggers. So that's the way news is getting out of Russia. It's coming from independent monitoring groups, from opposition activists and bloggers posting videos so that we can see with our own eyes. We're going to have more on this on CNN in the hours ahead.
Those videos, social media videos from people on the ground are crucial sources of information during this conflict. You've probably heard the term geo-locating a lot. Well, it's an essential tool right now used to confirm video and photos from the ground, used to verify accounts, and also to assess risk. CNN has been using it every day since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
I know you've heard a lot about it on the air. So we want to show you what it actually means. You know, when a video like this appears on social media, and then geolocation is used to confirm the image posted on Telegram was indeed the immediate aftermath of a Russian military strike on an apartment complex. CNN put together this report to show you how the actual process of geolocation works.
KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE RESEARCHER (on camera): Social media footage has played a key role in our coverage of Ukraine, making us able to identify military movements and also possible attacks but it's also really important that we understand the footage is real and accurate and current, and so one of the ways that we've been doing this is by geo-locating that footage. And here's an example of how our investigative team has been doing that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.
POLGLASE (voiceover): It was an alarming scene. Russian helicopters flying suspiciously low over an area just a few kilometers outside of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, with large dark plumes of smoke rising. The man filming says about 20 of them flew by. And at the time this video first started circulating on social media, February 24, it was not yet confirmed the Russians were anywhere near Kyiv so our investigative team began looking to verify it.
POLGLASE (on camera): So the most important thing is to establish that this footage is recent.
POLGLASE (voiceover): We used reverse image search engines to check the video had not been circulating before February 24. It had not. With that confirmed, we needed to establish the location. Social media post mentioned Hostomel Airport, 25 kilometers outside of Kyiv, so we started there. Using Google Earth, and Yandex Maps, a Russian search engine equivalent, we zoomed in on the airport and began looking for possible locations.
POLGLASE (on camera): What we then wanted to do was to geo-locate it, and to geolocate it, we did what's called a panorama so we created various screen grabs from the footage that looks significant and we pulled up various different shots from the footage that showed us key identifiable structures. The main most notable one was this yellow building here and there's a small rooftop structure as well.
You can also tell that there are some white houses and a gray structure here to the right. Using these screen-grabs, we then went back to our Google Earth to find any situation, any location near the airport that matched that description. And luckily, we found this. Here's a yellow structure, and there are multiple white houses, and there's also a gray structure nearby as well. And because of that arrangement, because of the way they're situated, that had to be the location near the airport where this footage was filmed. So we know the date and we also know the location of that footage.
Now with that verified, we were able to put that footage to use. And so we sent this footage to CNN's Matthew Chance, and shortly afterward, he traveled to where we geo-located on a map and he was then applied for CNN, creating an iconic moment where he was at the airport with Russian soldiers interacting with him and identifying that they were already so close to the capital.
STELTER: Thank you to Katie Polglase and her colleagues for that behind-the-scenes perspective. Now, once the videos are verified, should networks be showing graphic, gory content from the warzone? How are those decisions made? We're going to get into that after a quick break.
STELTER: This next segment will be about the gory reality of war, so please take care of the children are in the room. News outlets are making very difficult decisions about what to show and what not to show as both professional photographers and ordinary Ukrainians are documenting civilian casualties from Russian attacks. They're also describing the death of Russian soldiers in the streets like a heart without a body.
That's the way a Los Angeles Times reporter described the remnants of a battle on a road 24 miles outside Kyiv this weekend. Nobody touched the corpses, he wrote. Corpses of dead Russian soldiers laying in the snow. Then "a bit further up the road, lay a heart without a body. It was unclear from which soldier it had come." In this case, Nabih Bulos only described the horror but he did not show a photo.
In another instance, this one today from the New York Times, photographer Lynsey Addario attached a graphic image warning, as she shared a photo of dead bodies of dead family and said "today, I witnessed Russian troops deliberately targeting civilians fleeing for their lives from a village." She said at least three members of the family of four were killed in front of me. So we've blurred that photo, but she shared the photo, seeing three dead bodies and then the father who was barely alive, receiving medical attention.
Now you've seen on CNN this weekend photos of an 18-month-old killed in Russian shelling, these photos have been widely shared. His name was Kirill. These photos need to be widely shared. But there's also a balancing act that happens inside newsrooms in the U.S. and other newsrooms.
For example, I noticed British tabloids are much more likely to put these sorts of photos on the front page than American papers are. So CNN Senior Media Reporter Oliver Darcy is back with me to talk about these choices and they are hard choices. Anyone who says, just show everything that's not necessarily easy for a newsroom to decide to do. What are the factors that go into this Oliver?
DARCY: There's a big balancing act. And these are -- these are tough choices, as you said. One -- for one, newsrooms don't want to turn off audiences, right because they want them sticking on the channel so they can get that information that they need. The newsrooms also want to take into account whether this is going to -- how it's going to impact the family, for instance of those dead people that are going to be broadcast on-air.
On the other hand, they also want to show the realities, the very ugly realities of war. And so you have newsrooms having to weigh these decisions and really weigh the pros and cons to decide whether to show these gory images that some newsrooms are deciding to show and others -- other newsrooms are not.
STELTER: And what direction do you usually lean?
DARCY: I think, you know, it's war, it's ugly. You have to show it, right?
STELTER: You have to find ways to show it.
DARCY: I think -- I think you have -- yes.
STELTER: Have warning labels, you know.
STELTER: We start the segment with a warning. You put warning labels on the screen. On the web, you can sometimes hide images behind a warning and then you have to click the warning in order to see the photo.
STELTER: So there are ways to build in protective mechanisms, but still show the reality.
DARCY: Yes, I mean, it's -- war is very ugly, it's horrifying, and we're covering a war. And I think audiences are -- you know they're mature enough for the most part I think, to digest these images. You don't want again -- show you know, something extraordinarily gory, for instance, but some of these other images and -- I mean previous wars have been iconic and have really moved the public and in certain ways and so I don't think you want to censor and sanitize the reality on the ground. That's -- there are those --
STELTER: Depending on whether or not --
DARCY: There are those tools too, that are newsrooms disposals to make sure that they can do this without you know, totally shocking an audience.
STELTER: An individual image, like of the 18-month-old becomes a symbol. I had a viewer write to me saying, in a warzone like this, it's impossible to show all of the death. These unintentional martyrs, like the 18-month-old, come to symbolize the monstrosity of these broad moments of human suffering. So these symbols of individuals represent the whole. Oliver, thank you for being here.
Join us online for our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES Newsletter. All the rest of the media world news, including Chris Licht being named the new CEO of CNN, also releases new big movies this weekend, big events coming up this week. We preview all of that in a Nightly Newsletter while we're on the air here covering the latest from the warzone. Coming up next, Jake Tapper continues our live coverage with STATE OF THE UNION.