Russian court bans Instagram, Facebook as 'extremist'

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 22 2022 03:48 AM

A Facebook logo on a stand during the Vivatech startups and innovation fair, in Paris, May 16, 2019. Julien de Rosa, EPA-EFE/file
A Facebook logo on a stand during the Vivatech startups and innovation fair, in Paris, May 16, 2019. Julien de Rosa, EPA-EFE/file

A Moscow court on Monday banned Facebook and Instagram as "extremist" organizations, after authorities accused US tech giant Meta of tolerating "Russophobia" during the conflict in Ukraine.

The Tverskoi district court said it had agreed to a request from prosecutors for the two social media platforms to be banned for "carrying out extremist activities", but that Meta's WhatsApp messenger service would not be prohibited because it is not a public platform.

The move is part of sweeping efforts by Moscow to crack down on social media amid its military action in pro-Western Ukraine.

During Monday's hearing, Russia's FSB security service accused Meta of working against Moscow's interests during the conflict.

"The activities of the Meta organization are directed against Russia and its armed forces," FSB representative Igor Kovalevsky told the court, Russian news agencies reported.

"We ask (the court) to ban Meta's activities and oblige it to implement this ruling immediately," he said.

After President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, authorities blocked access in Russia to Facebook and Instagram, as well as to Twitter.

Meta had announced on March 10 that the platforms would allow statements like "death to Russian invaders" but not credible threats against civilians. 

But in what appeared to be damage control, Meta's global affairs president, Nick Clegg, later said the laxer rules would only apply to people posting from inside Ukraine.