The Russian Investigative Committee said anyone in Russia using Facebook and Instagram would be prosecuted similarly to an ISIS terrorist
Russia has opened a criminal case against Instagram parent company, Meta.
The Russian Investigative Committee accuses the company of being an “extremist organisation”, after Meta temporarily allowed Facebook and Instagram users to call for violence against Russian soldiers in context of the war on Ukraine.
Real-time data from global internet monitor, NetBlocks, finds that Instagram is now banned to Russians.
⚠️ Confirmed: Real-time network data show #Instagram is now restricted in #Russia across multiple providers; the popular social network has been banned by internet regulator Roskomnadzor after similar measures taken against Twitter and Facebook
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) March 13, 2022
Roskomnadzor, the Russian internet regulator, said that the ban would begin today (14 March) – to give users two days to change platforms. Instagram is still available via VPNs, but the platform will take a significant loss in Russian users.
Who is allowed to call for violence against Russian soldiers?
The change to hate speech policy was made by moderators of both sites, as a reflection of freedom of expression during a period of violence. Only individuals in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan will be allowed to express themselves this way. These countries, in proximity to the war, are thought to be especially vulnerable to Russian violence.
The word “Russians” is colloquially used online to imply Russian soldiers, with some pointing out that the Investigative Committee are purposefully misinterpreting the reality of the policy change.
Praise for the Azov battalion, a far-right group within the Ukrainian army, will also be temporarily allowed.
A Meta spokesperson said they would make: “A narrow exception for the praise of the Azov Regiment strictly in the context of defending Ukraine, or in their role as part of the Ukraine National Guard.”
Russian Investigative Committee opens criminal case against Meta
In a statement, the Russian Investigative Committee said: “A criminal case has been initiated in the Main Investigation Department of the Russian Investigative Committee in connection with illegal calls for murder and violence against citizens of the Russian Federation by employees of the American company Meta, which owns the social networks Facebook and Instagram.
“These actions contain signs of crimes under Articles 280 and 205.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – public calls for extremist activities; assistance to terrorist activities.”
This means that using Facebook and Instagram after this point will place Russians at risk of being prosecuted in a similar way to ISIS terrorists, as they would be engaging with what Russian leadership has described as an “extremist organisation”.
Responding to the decision to ban Facebook and Instagram across the Russian Federation, Nick Clegg, Global Affairs President at Meta, said: “Soon, millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday way of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out.”
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