The investigative news site Bird.bg found that Russians are in charge of the Bulgarian division of Telus International, which is in charge of controlling comments on Meta’s social networks, particularly Facebook. The business informed RFE/Bulgarian RL’s Service that it lacked the power to block accounts and that it was abiding by all Meta’s guidelines.
Telus International Bulgaria
The worldwide outsourcing company Telus International (Canadian-based), which includes Telus International Bulgaria, is now being charged for censoring anti-Russian public figures on Facebook for 30 days while allowing pro-Russian messages to pass.
With numerous pro-Western, social media activities, and firmly on the side of Ukraine in the conflict with Russia Bulgarian artists, poets, journalists, and activists claim they have been subject to bans. About their pro-Ukraine posts or messages criticizing the Kremlin or its sympathizers, including those in Bulgaria, they claim they have been silenced on Facebook.
Facebook uses a sophisticated algorithm based on artificial intelligence to detect and moderate unwanted content. But this applies to large and important languages, but it is highly debatable whether investments have been made for small languages such as Bulgarian. Employees of the company, on condition of anonymity, told the aforementioned investigators that they use so-called judges to moderate the content.
A ticket is formed for a questionable post and submitted to a different piece of software, which decides whether to keep blocking the post based on scant information and without thorough analysis.
Based on the moderators’ decisions regarding comparable posts over the previous several days, posts are prohibited. A judge reviews the reported content and decides whether to approve or reject the post within seconds. Sometimes he needs the help of a comrade, and then he consults with the political commissar of the group.
Bribery of moderators in favor of the dictatorial regime has already taken place. A BBC investigation alleges that moderators from Essen, Germany, were paid to block content directed against the Ayatollah regime in Iran.
The BBC quoted a Persian language moderator, Telus International, as saying that Iranian intelligence officials offered content moderators between €5,000 and €10,000 to remove posts by prominent journalists and public activists opposed to the regime in Tehran.
Russia, like Iran, is a hostile state that is betting on a hybrid war that involves shaping public opinion in its favor. It is known that businessmen close to the Kremlin regime, such as Yevgeny Prigozhin, finance the support of thousands of fake troll profiles on social networks.
Project “Dolphin” and Russian trolls
According to Bird.bg, Telus is developing a program named Dolphin to control Facebook comments. The Russian division, it says, is in charge of the divisions in Bulgaria and several other nations. The Dolphin Project is a department that moderates the content of the Meta social network. It is entirely secret, so security measures are as strict as possible. Other social networks served by Telus are less secretive, such as Chameleon for Snapchat content. The Dolphin name is also part of the mystery, but it became known in a series of lawsuits against Telus by fired employees.
Telus Bulgaria’s local policies accept the complaints of thousands of pro-Russian trolls who restrict information critical to their country. The troll profiles “like” articles on the devastation of civic infrastructure in Ukraine and “dislike” articles that accuse Russia of supporting terrorism.
According to Bird.bg, Meta’s algorithm immediately bans a post after receiving numerous complaints from trolls affiliated with Russia.
Is the suspicion of the destruction of strategic relations between Bulgaria and the EU not a sufficient reason for at least a minimal check?
Under the guise of impartiality, individual departments of a large company can support terrorism and the aggressor without bearing any responsibility for it. But in this case, they cover themselves with secrecy, which should already raise questions on the part of the Bulgarian government.