Russia bans Facebook, Instagram over ‘extremism’ in Ukraine crisis

A Moscow court on Monday banned Facebook and Instagram for allegedly engaging in extremist activities in a lawsuit against their parent company, Meter. Tverskoy district court granted prosecutors a request to outlaw Meta and banned Facebook and Instagram for what they called “extremist activity.” Russian prosecutors have accused social media platforms of describing Russian military action in Ukraine as “fake news” and of ignoring official requests to call for anti-war protests in Russia.

The court’s ruling barred Meta from opening offices and doing business in Russia. Meta declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Prosecutors did not call for the banning of the meta-owned messaging service WhatsApp, which is widely popular in Russia. Authorities further stressed that they do not want to punish individual Russians who use Facebook or Instagram.

Roscommonadzor, the country’s communications and media regulator, said Instagram and Facebook had already been blocked in Russia because they were being used to call for violence against Russian troops. In addition to blocking Facebook and Instagram, Russian authorities have also blocked access to foreign media websites, including the BBC, the US-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and the Latvian-based website Meduja.

Continuing the effort, Roscommonadzor blocked the European News Network Euronews website on Monday. The regulator also cut off Euronews broadcasts.

The court ruling comes amid a multifaceted effort by Russian authorities to control the message about Russia’s military action in Ukraine, which the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation” aimed at rooting out alleged “neo-Nazi nationalists.”

A new law quickly-tracked by the Kremlin-controlled parliament on March 4th, a week after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, envisages up to 15 years in prison for posting “false” information about the military, contrary to the official description.

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