A Russian court has banned the use of Facebook and Instagram after calling the activities of the apps’ parent company, Meta, “extremist”. according to the public news agency RIA Novosti.
This decision came after the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office appealed in court in Moscow to have Meta designated an “extremist organization” for allowing users in certain countries to call for violence against President Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers participating in the country’s invasion of Ukraine. WhatsApp, which is also owned by Meta, is not part of the ban. Meta declined to comment on the filing.
Individuals will not face criminal charges for using Facebook or Instagram. “The use of Meta’s products by natural and legal persons should not be considered participation in extremist activities,” said a spokesperson for the prosecution. Told state media TASS. “Individuals will not be held liable solely for the use of Meta’s services.”
Also citing prosecutors, the Net Freedoms Project, a Russian human rights organization, said on its telegram channel that paying for advertising on Instagram and Facebook can now be seen as funding an extremist organization. Any person, business or website with links to Facebook and Instagram, and anyone with a business card displaying app logos could face felony charges, he said. “This is a public display of the symbols of an extremist organization,” the organization said.
The decision will allow Roskomnadzor, the Russian government’s media watchdog, to immediately block Meta’s social networks and shut down affected offices in Russia.
Russia blocked access to Facebook earlier this month. A week later, Roskomnadzor said he would also be block instagram in reply to Meta announcement that it would allow Facebook and Instagram users in Ukraine to post “forms of political expression” that would normally violate the company’s rules against violent speech, such as “death to Russian invaders.”
RIA Novosti wrote that what Russian prosecutors consider “extremist information” being spread on Facebook and Instagram “threatens both individuals and society as a whole, and the company violated its own rules by allowing the publication of ‘calls for the murder of the Russian army’.
In February, Meta blocked access to Russian state media RT and Sputnik in the EU. Other American technology companies, including Google and Applealso responded to the invasion by blocking access to Russian state media.