Russia bans Facebook and Instagram under ‘extremism’ law

Court in Moscow labels parent company Meta as ‘extremist’ amid crackdown on western media

A Russian court has banned Facebook and Instagram in the country, labelling its parent company Meta as “extremist” amid the Kremlin’s sweeping crackdown on western social media giants.

Access to Facebook and Instagram had already been restricted earlier this month after Meta confirmed it was relaxing its policies on hate speech towards Russian soldiers and Vladimir Putin in relation to the country’s war in Ukraine. Meta later said the laxer rules would only apply to people posting from inside Ukraine.

The court in Moscow said that Facebook and Instagram –both of which are widely used among Russians – were “carrying out extremist activities”. But it said that Meta’s WhatsApp messenger service would not be prohibited because it “was means of communication, not a source of information”.

During Monday’s hearing in Moscow, Russia’s FSB security service accused Meta of creating an “alternative reality” in which “hatred for the Russians was kindled”.

“The activities of the Meta organisation are directed against Russia and its armed forces,” FSB representative Igor Kovalevsky told the court, the Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Previously, groups such as the Taliban, Jehovah’s Witnesses and an organisation led by the jailed Kremlin opponent Aleksei Navalny have been targeted under the same extremism law.

Russian prosecutors said in court they would not seek to charge Russian citizens and organisations that access the two banned platforms, as hundreds of thousands of Russians have sought to circumvent the social media ban using a VPN.

“The use of Meta’s products by individuals and legal entities should not be considered as participation in extremist activities,” Kovalevsky told the court on Monday. “Individuals will not be held liable for using Meta’s services,” he added.

It was not immediately clear if Russians and foreign companies that purchase ads on Facebook and Instagram could be prosecuted under the Russian law of “financing an extremist organisation”.

According to TASS, Meta’s lawyer, Victoria Shagina had said in court that the corporation opposed any type of Russophobia and was not carrying out extremist activities.

The move to label Meta as “extremist” comes as Russia continues its unprecedented crackdown on protesters, independent news outlets and foreign social media networks.

Russian parliament earlier this month passed a law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally “fake” news about the military.

“Since the start of the special operation in Ukraine, the authorities have sought to fully control the information sphere in the country. We should be prepared for more censorship,” said Alexander Isavnin, a Russian internet privacy advocate and member of the Pirate Party of Russia.

“The move to ban Meta is also a final warning sign to YouTube, the last major remaining western platform in the country,” Isavnin added, pointing to the recent criticism YouTube received from Russia’s communications regulator and politicians.

Russia’s communication watchdog last Friday slammed YouTube for engaging in acts “of a terrorist nature” by allowing ads on the video-sharing platform to be used that could “harm Russian citizens”.

“The actions of the YouTube administration are of a terrorist nature and threaten the life and health of Russian citizens,” the regulator said in a statement.


Pjotr Sauer

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Russia to block Instagram after Meta relaxes stance on Putin hate speech
Russia says social media platform has been used to incite ‘mass riots accompanied by violence’

Andrew Roth

11, Mar, 2022 @11:56 PM

Article image
Facebook takes down Ukraine disinformation network and bans Russian-backed media
Meta says network ran websites posing as independent news entities and created fake personas

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

28, Feb, 2022 @9:02 PM

Article image
Mark Zuckerberg should quit Facebook, says Frances Haugen
Whistleblower says a new CEO should prioritise online safety over Meta restructure

Dan Milmo in Lisbon

01, Nov, 2021 @10:35 PM

Article image
Facebook and Instagram users not allowed to call for death of Putin
Update from parent company Meta says ‘calls for the death of a head of state’ are banned

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

14, Mar, 2022 @6:14 PM

Article image
Meta delays encrypted messages on Facebook and Instagram to 2023
Move comes as child safety campaigners express concern plans could shield abusers from detection

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

21, Nov, 2021 @12:12 PM

Article image
Crime agencies condemn Facebook and Instagram encryption plans
Global alliance including NCA and FBI says Meta’s decision to encrypt direct messages could harm children

Alex Hern Technology editor

20, Apr, 2023 @11:24 AM

Article image
TSB urges Facebook and Instagram owner to better protect users from fraud
Bank says UK consumers could lose £250m from scams originating on Meta platforms in 2023

Jess Clark

14, Jun, 2023 @1:02 PM

Article image
Deepfakes v pre-bunking: is Russia losing the infowar?
Ukraine and its allies seem to be doing a good job in this vital battleground, but experts warn the global picture is complex

Dan Milmo and Pjotr Sauer

19, Mar, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
‘Stop trying to be TikTok’: how video-centric Instagram sparked a revolt
Loyal users and Kardashians forced social network to partially retreat by demanding renewed emphasis on photo-sharing

Dan Milmo and Alex Hern

31, Jul, 2022 @12:00 PM

Article image
Facebook and Instagram to get paid verification as Twitter charges for two-factor SMS authentication
Mark Zuckerberg follows Elon Musk’s lead in introducing fee for blue ticks, while Twitter to restrict 2FA via SMS to paid users

Josh Taylor

20, Feb, 2023 @2:21 AM