Whistleblower alleges Meta violated US sanctions law by permitting pro-Russia rebels' accounts

A whistleblower filed two complaints with the Justice Department and the Treasury Department in recent months, alleging that Facebook parent company Meta willfully violated sanctions the government had placed on pro-Russian rebels, which allowed them to spread Russian propaganda.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the complaints were filed in December and February by the nonprofit Whistleblower Aid on behalf of Joohn Choe, who was hired as a Facebook contractor following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Choe told The Post he wished to make the complaints public because the Facebook accounts, which were on the U.S. government sanctions list since 2014, were operating despite the sanctions and helped fuel Russian President Vladimir Putin's narrative to justify the invasion of Ukraine.

"Facebook is knowingly aiding and abetting in the information war that Russia is waging," Choe told the newspaper.

The Hill has reached out to Meta for comment. The tech company told The Post the "allegation is untrue."

"We are committed to complying with U.S. sanctions laws and are treating these individuals and entities as we're required to under U.S. law," said Dani Lever to The Post.

Whistleblower Aid is the same organization that represented Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who testified publicly in the U.S. and Europe against Meta's practices that allegedly put profit over safety when monitoring Facebook activity.

Amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine, social media companies, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Reddit have cracked down on Russian state media, restricting their access and demonetizing their platforms.

Choe's complaint includes concerns about a pro-Russian biker named Aleksandr Zaldostanov who promoted the invasion of Ukraine on Facebook despite being sanctioned in 2014.

According to The Post, removing individuals and accounts because of sanctions is a murky area of the law that could trample on free speech.