UPDATED: The Russian government announced that it has taken steps to “partially restrict access” to Facebook in the country, asserting that the social network censored official news outlets amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Facebook was “involved in the violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, as well as the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens,” by restricting Kremlin-backed news sources, according to an announcement released Friday (Feb. 25) by Roskomnadzor, the Russian governmental agency responsible for monitoring and censoring Russian media.
It wasn’t immediately clear what Russia’s move to “partially” block access to Facebook’s service means. In a subsequent update to its initial statement, Roskomnadzor said that the restrictions would be “in the form of slowing down traffic” to Facebook.
The agency, under the heading of “Measures taken to protect Russian media,” said it was taking the action after Facebook on Feb. 24 restricted the official accounts of four Russian media outlets on its platform: the Defense Ministry’s Zvezda TV channel, the RIA Novosti news agency, Lenta.ru and Gazeta.ru. According to Roskomnadzor, Facebook tagged Russian media posts as “unreliable” and “imposed technical restrictions on the search results of publications” to reduce their audience reach.
Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, wrote in a statement posted to Twitter that Russian authorities on Thursday “ordered us to stop the independent fact-checking and labelling of content posted to Facebook by four Russian state-owned media organizations. We refused. As a result, they have announced they will be restricting the use of our services.”
Clegg continued, “Ordinary Russians are using our apps to express themselves and organize for action. We want them to continue to make their voices heard, share what’s happening, and organize through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.”
Roskomnadzor said it sent requests to Meta to lift the restrictions Facebook had placed on the Russian media outlets “and explain the reason for their introduction.” According to the agency, “The owners of the social network ignored the requirements of Roskomnadzor.”
The regulatory agency said Facebook’s actions violate a Russian federal law. Since October 2020, Roskomnadzor claimed, it has recorded 23 such cases of “censorship: of Russian media and internet resources by Facebook.