Russia’s media regulator announced that it was blocking access to the Facebook network in the country, claiming parent company Meta’s restrictions on Kremlin-affiliated media accounts violated a Russian law banning censorship.
In the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Meta previously said it was “globally demoting” content from Facebook pages and Instagram accounts from Russian state-controlled media outlets, which include the Russian military’s Zvezda TV channel and Sputnik to make them harder to find on its platforms. In addition, the social giant has banned ads from Russian state-controlled media and demonetized their accounts.
The move to block Facebook is part of Russia’s broader effort to promote its own propaganda and to suppress information critical of the regime’s war on Ukraine. The government passed a law Friday making it illegal to publish “false information” about Russia’s military, with violators facing fines and up to 15 years in prison.
Meta is among a host of other internet media platforms that have restricted or blocked Russian state-sponsored media since the war commenced, including YouTube, Spotify, TikTok, Snapchat and Reddit.
On Friday, Roskomnadzor, the Russian “federal service for supervision of communications, information technology and mass communications,” said in a statement, “On March 4, 2022, a decision was made to block access to the Facebook network (owned by Meta Platforms, Inc.) in the Russian Federation.” The agency said Facebook’s restrictions are prohibited by a federal law that mandates “unhindered access [for] Russian users to Russian media on foreign internet platforms.” Meta’s actions infringe “the rights and freedoms of citizens of the Russian Federation,” Roskomnadzor said.
Roskomnadzor also said it would block Twitter in Russia, according to a report by independent news agency Interfax, but Twitter could not confirm that it is unavailable in the country.
In response to Russia’s announcement that it will block Facebook, Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg said in a tweet that that “millions of ordinary Russians will soon find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out.” The company “will continue to do everything we can to restore our services” in Russia, he added.
Separately, Meta on Friday detailed additional steps it has taken in response to Russia’s assault on Ukraine. Among those, the company said it has temporarily removed the ability to view and search the friends lists of Facebook accounts in Ukraine and Russia “to help protect people from being targeted.” Meta also made encrypted one-to-one chats available on Instagram for all adults in Ukraine and Russia.
Meta said it continues to remove content that violates its policies and has expanded its work with third-party fact-checkers in the region “to debunk false claims so we can help ensure fewer people see them.”
According to Meta, since Feb. 23, Facebook and Instagram users have raised more than $20 million to support of humanitarian efforts for Ukraine. The company also said it is donating $15 million toward humanitarian relief in Ukraine and neighboring countries.