Russia has banned Instagram as well as designating Meta an “extremist organization”.
The new restrictions come soon after Meta – which owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook – announced it would break with existing policy and allow users to call for death tolls of the Russian armed forces.
According to an Interfax report, the designation for the technology giant came from the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation.
“In accordance with the Federal Law ‘On Countering Extremist Activity’, the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation sent an application to the court to recognize Meta Platform Inc. as an extremist organization and to ban its activities on the territory of the Russian Federation , ”the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation said today.
WhatsApp “will not be affected by the measures against Meta, as it is a means of communication that does not post information”, a source told state-owned agency RIA Novosti, denying initial reports.
The Russian government had already taken action against Facebook – banning it in the country – but Instagram and WhatsApp are much more popular services, especially for young people, and until now, had postponed action against those platforms.
The report also said that Meta is looking to roll back its recent policy change that would allow calls for violence against the Russian military.
“In light of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, we have made a temporary exception for those affected by the war to express sentiments such as ‘death to the Russian invaders’ attacking the armed forces,” META said in a statement. “
This change is mainly directed towards the countries involved in the conflict and neighboring European countries, but only in specific regard to the invasion. Meta said it would continue to remove hate speech directed at Russians in general and from areas outside the immediate conflict.
Controversially, however, these “temporary measures” also allowed praise for the neo-Nazi Azov battalion, which has admitted to recruiting neo-Nazis and is currently Being armed in the fight against Russia,
“At the moment, we are making a narrow exception to praise the Azov Regiment in the context of the defense of Ukraine or in terms of their role as part of the Ukraine National Guard. But we all use hate speech, symbols of hatred, praise of violence , are continuing to ban general praise, endorsement, or representation of the Azov Regiment and any other content that violates our Community Standards”, reported Meta Independent,
To bypass national sanctions, Russian citizens are using VPNs at an astonishing rate. Reports indicate that downloads for top VPN software in Russia have averaged 16,000 per day to over 700,000 daily downloads since February 24.
The Independent has contacted Meta and Roskomnadzor for more information.