Russian court bans Facebook and Instagram as extremists : NPR
Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images
A Russian court has banned Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, for “extremist” activities, making its work in Russia illegal. The decision excludes WhatsApp, which Meta also owns.
The decision immediately bans Facebook and Instagram from Russia, where both platforms are already blocked. Russian authorities are also seeking to designate Meta as an “extremist organization”, which could come into effect after a potential call from Meta. The company did not immediately comment.
For now, the extent of the decision’s impact remains unclear. An extremist designation in Russia generally prohibits any commercial activity or even the display of brand symbols. During the hearing, government prosecutors appeared to clarify that ordinary people using Facebook or Instagram would not be prosecuted.
The case stems in part from Meta’s decision earlier this month to allow certain calls for violence against Russian soldiers. The Russian prosecutors’ criminal investigation cited “unlawful calls for the murder of Russian nationals” by Meta employees and accused Instagram of serving as a platform to stage “riots, accompanied by violence.”
Meta later clarified that he had relaxed his rules against violent speech only for people inside Ukraine and only for Russian servicemen in that country. It does not authorize any calls for violence, harassment or discrimination against the Russian people.
In recent years, Russian authorities have expanded the extremist designation beyond terror groups like al-Qaida to include Jehovah’s Witnesses, imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s political movement and other organizations.
More and more Russians have started using virtual private networks, or VPNs, to circumvent government restrictions on social media. Demand for VPNs in Russia was 2,692% higher on March 14 than before the fighting began, according to Top10VPN, a privacy monitoring service.
More than 15,000 Russian protesters have been arrested in the past three weeks as new laws criminalize public statements about Ukraine that do not match the Kremlin’s official view of what it calls ‘military operation special”.
Editor’s note: Meta pays NPR to license NPR content.