Social media companies have failed to stop “large-scale” Russian disinformation campaigns since the invasion of Ukraine, the EU has said.
The EU Commission’s report said the “reach and influence of Kremlin-backed accounts” had grown further in 2023.
Russian disinformation has increased on X, formerly Twitter, since Elon Musk bought the company, the report added.
The study, published on Wednesday, looks at attempts to deal with Kremlin-backed disinformation and suggests the rise has been “driven in particular by the dismantling of Twitter’s safety standards”.
Previous reports has it that accounts belonging to official Kremlin social media accounts have propagated false information about the war in Ukraine.
“In absolute numbers, pro-Kremlin accounts continue to reach the largest audiences on Meta’s platforms. Meanwhile, the audience size for Kremlin-backed accounts more than tripled on Telegram,” the report found.
The study also concluded that no platform consistently applied its terms of services in several eastern European languages.
Earlier this month tougher rules under the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) were introduced for the world’s biggest online platforms.
All large social media companies must comply with the DSA’s stricter rules that demand a more aggressive approach to policing content – including disinformation and hate speech – from “very large” platforms with at least 45 million monthly active users.
The study concluded that if the DSA had been operational before last month, social media companies would have breached their legal duties – resulting in possible fines.
“Over the course of 2022, the audience and reach of Kremlin-aligned social media accounts increased substantially all over Europe,” the study found.
The report also refers to a tweet from 9 April in which Elon Musk confirmed his platform would no longer “limit” Kremlin-run accounts.
“It is a weak move to engage in censorship just because others do so. Letting our press be free when theirs is not demonstrates strength,” Mr Musk tweeted at the time.
Twitter had “limited” accounts in April last year – which means the accounts will no longer be recommended in timelines, notifications or elsewhere on the site. That was under a previous management team.
However the company had resisted banning many Kremlin-run profiles – leading to criticism at the time that Vladimir Putin had not been banned from the site, when former President Donald Trump had.