What happened now? A Russian court found Facebook and Instagram guilty of “extremist activity” after they temporarily allowed users in several countries to post violence and death threats against Russian soldiers and President Vladimir Putin. But while both platforms were already banned in the country, Meta’s WhatsApp was allowed to continue operating.
Earlier this month, Facebook and Instagram sent out emails to content moderators informing them that due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, social media sites must allow posts that normally violate their rules on hate speech such as “death to Russian occupiers.” . It was also reported that calls for violence against Russian leaders such as Putin were allowed, but Meta later stated that this was not the case.
Meta’s actions led to a lawsuit by the prosecutor’s office to ban the company’s activities in Russia, writes Reuters. He was supported even though Russia had already blocked Facebook, Instagram and many other sites after they took action against the country’s state media.
☝️We demand from the 🇺🇸 authorities to stop extremist activities @Metatake action to bring the perpetrators to justice. Users #facebook & #Instagram did not give the owners of these platforms the right to determine the criteria of truth and pit nations against each other. https://t.co/1RkrjRmEtA pic.twitter.com/sTacSm4nDt
— Embassy of Russia in the USA 🇬🇧 (@RusEmbUSA) March 11, 2022
Other groups identified as extremist by Russia include the Taliban, Islamic State, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The ruling means that Meta is prohibited from opening offices or doing business in Russia, TASS writes. Citizens accessing its products via VPN, downloads skyrocketing in the country, will not be charged with extremism, although they still face consequences for violating a recent law that makes it illegal to criticize the invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the ban on Facebook and Instagram, Russia has not taken similar action against WhatsApp. Engadget notes that this is partly due to the popularity of the application; it is used by about 80% of Russians over the age of 14, although Telegram has now surpassed WhatsApp as Russia’s leading communications service due to uncertainty about the latter’s future.
“The decision does not apply to the activities of the Meta WhatsApp messenger due to its lack of functionality for the public dissemination of information,” the court said in a statement.
Russia had about 7.5 million Facebook users last year, while WhatsApp had 67 million, an Insider Intelligence researcher estimated. Instagram said its ban would affect about 80 million users in the country.