Russia Will Ban Instagram, After Meta Allows Ukrainians to Post Violent Threats Against Russian Military

Russia Instagram Ban
Courtesy of Instagram

Meta is allowing users of Facebook and Instagram in Ukraine to post “forms of political expression” that would ordinarily violate its hate-speech policies — including urging people to kill the Russian soldiers who are attacking the country.

In response, the Russian government, which already previously blocked Facebook, said it will also ban Instagram effective March 14.

“As you know, on March 11, Meta Platforms Inc. made an unprecedented decision by allowing the posting of information containing calls for violence against Russian citizens on its social networks Facebook and Instagram,” Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media regulatory agency, said Friday. “Messages are circulating on the Instagram social network encouraging and provoking violent acts against Russians, in connection with which the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office demanded that Roskomnadzor restrict access to this social network.”

According to Meta, it has temporarily made allowances for violent speech by users in Ukraine such as “death to the Russian invaders” on its services, but is still not allowing “credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.”

The company’s change in policy is focused on protecting Ukrainians’ “rights to speech as an expression of self-defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country,” Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg wrote in a tweet.

“The fact is, if we applied our standard content policies without any adjustments we would now be removing content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces, which would rightly be viewed as unacceptable,” Clegg continued.

Meta has not changed its hate-speech policies as they apply to “the Russian people,” the Meta exec wrote. “We will not tolerate Russophobia or any kind of discrimination, harassment or violence towards Russians on our platform.”

In its statement, Roskomnadzor said that “since it will take time for active Instagram users to transfer their photo and video materials to other social networks and notify their contacts and subscribers,” the agency will “complete the procedure for imposing restrictions on access to Instagram” at midnight on Monday, March 14.

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, slammed Russia’s plan to block the app. “This decision will cut 80 million in Russia off from one another, and from the rest of the world as ~80% of people in Russia follow an Instagram account outside their country,” he tweeted. “This is wrong.”

Also Friday, Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s federal law enforcement agency, announced that it had initiated a criminal case against Meta over its allowance of Ukrainian users to call for violence against the Russian military. The Meta policy change appears to violate Russian laws prohibiting “public calls for extremist activities” and “assistance in terrorist activities,” the agency said. The IC said that as part of the criminal case, “the necessary investigative measures are being carried out to give a legal evaluation to actions” of Meta employees.