The Bulgarian section of Telus International, responsible for moderating content on Meta’s social media platforms, including Facebook, is controlled by Russians, according to research by the analytical news outlet Bird.bg.
Russia is suspected of utilizing various techniques to launch hybrid attacks against Bulgarian democracy, including spreading disinformation and funding political parties. The ultimate goal is to sway public opinion in Bulgaria and the EU and support pro-Russia narratives.
Telus International Bulgaria
Telus International Bulgaria, a subsidiary of Telus International, has been accused of censoring anti-Russian public figures for 30 days. At the same time, it was allowing pro-Russian remarks to pass through on the social media platform Facebook.
Telus is working on a project dubbed Dolphin to regulate Facebook posts, according to Bird.bg. The Russian division, it alleges, controls the departments in Bulgaria and several other nations.
Telus International Bulgaria has consistently rejected any collaboration with Russia.
Employees of the company, however, told Bird.bg that three of the twelve judges who have the last say on whether postings are approved have Russian ties.
Three “Facebook judges” linked to Russia
According to the investigation, one of the “Facebook judges” studied in Russia, one of the parents of the second one is Russian, and the third goes on vacation to Russia every month.
The investigative journalists’ team found that a Telus employee in Bulgaria stated that personnel must check between 800 and 900 postings reported for banned content within one working day. They only have 40 seconds to decide whether or not the content respects Meta’s community standards.
According to Bird.bg, Telus’s local policies in Bulgaria accept the reports of thousands of pro-Moscow trolls who block anti-Russian content. The troll accounts dislike’ postings accusing Russia of being a terrorist state.
Russian trolls attack anti-Russia postings
Bird.bg writes that, following many reports from Russian trolls, Meta’s algorithm automatically bans a post. A ticket is then issued and submitted to a second software, which decides whether to continue rejecting the post based on incomplete data and without extensive investigation. Posts are being prohibited based on recent moderator decisions on similar posts.
Bird.bg also claims to have a third algorithm for banning public personalities’ posts. If a blocked post is appealed, the issue is assigned to a moderator who must review it.
“The reported content is sent to a Telus judge. This judge is usually a young man or woman fluent in English and other languages. According to Facebook’s community guidelines, he has a four-and-a-half-week training to learn what is acceptable and what is not. Because he cannot take notes, the judge must have a wonderful memory. He has the standards’ ‘bible,’ which is over 1,000 pages long, but with only 40 seconds on average to review a post, he has little time to search through it,” Bird.bg writes.