Russian officials have announced that access to Meta-owned platform Facebook has been blocked in the country in response to what it says has been Meta’s repeated discriminatory actions against Russian media.
Russian Officials Say Meta’s Restrictions Violate its Laws
In a statement on the Russian Government Website and spotted by Engadget, officials say that Facebook had committed 26 cases “of discrimination towards Russian media and information sources” since October of 2020. In recent days, the officials say that the network also restricted access to a host of media accounts, which appears to be the impetus for blocking access to the platform.
“The above restrictions are prohibited by Federal Law No. 272-FZ,” the statement reads, machine translated from Russian. “On measures to influence persons involved in violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms, the rights and freedoms of citizens of the Russian Federation, adopted, among other things, to prevent violations of the key principles of the free flow of information and unhindered access Russian users to Russian media on foreign Internet platforms.”
The block appears to only focus on Facebook and Facebook properties like Messenger, but may include other Meta brands like Instagram or WhatsApp.
Nick Clegg, Meta’s President of Global Affairs, published the following tweet with the company’s official response to Russia’s blocking of Facebook.
On the Russian government's decision to block access to Facebook in the Russian Federation: pic.twitter.com/JlJwIu1t9K
— Nick Clegg (@nickclegg) March 4, 2022
Meta Had Restricted Russia on Facebook and Instagram
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022 and has been heavily shelling major cities since. In response, countries in the EU, the United Kingdom, and the United States have issued heavy sanctions against Russia.
On February 28, Meta restricted access to two major Russian state media outlets on Facebook in the European Union: Sputnik and RT. According to Engadget, the move was made in response to “a number” of government requests from within the EU.
“Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we will be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU at this time,” Meta’s President of Global Affairs, Nick said at the time.
The European Commission had banned the outlets previous to this move and Facebook had also already blocked access to monetization features in Russia as well as already restricted the outlets from posting from inside Ukraine.
We have received requests from a number of Governments and the EU to take further steps in relation to Russian state controlled media. Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we will be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU at this time.
— Nick Clegg (@nickclegg) February 28, 2022
Meta confirmed on Tuesday that it had limited the spread of the Russian government across its platforms, including Instagram.
3/ Links: We have also begun to demote posts with links to Russian state-controlled media websites on Facebook. In the days ahead, we will label these links so people who do see them will have context before clicking or sharing. We plan to take similar steps on Instagram as well. pic.twitter.com/CPgVLy1dP0
— Nathaniel Gleicher (@ngleicher) March 1, 2022
“Over the past several days, we began demoting content from Facebook pages and Instagram accounts from Russian state-controlled media outlets, and we are making them harder to find across our platforms,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of security policy at Meta, Tweeted on March 1.
RT America, the Russian Government’s United States-based branch, ceased its productions and laid off most of its staff earlier this week due to what it described as “a result of unforeseen business interruption events.”
Russia Has Blocked Twitter As Well
Russia has expanded its social media blocking spree to include Twitter as well according to Interfax. Engadget reports that Twitter had previously confirmed its service was being restricted for some people in Russia and that there were widespread reports of throttling.
While Twitter did not ban access to Russian state media websites like Meta had, it did start automatically labeling all tweets with links to Russian state media outlets.
Updated 3/04 at 1:25 PM PT: Story has been updated to include Russia’s ban of Twitter as well as Meta’s response to Russia’s blocking of Facebook.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.