On Monday, March 21, 2022, a Russian court banned Facebook and Instagram for making their operation in Russia illegal by labeling them as “extreme.”
We all know that Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp are all owned by the same parent company, Meta, but the court on Monday decided to exclude Whatsapp and focus only on Facebook and Instagram.
WhatsApp messenger service would not be banned, according to a judge at Moscow’s Tverskoy Court, because it “was a means of communication, not a source of information,” whereas Facebook and Instagram, on the other hand, are widely used in Russia and were “carrying out extremist activities.”
Facebook and Instagram access in Russia has been blocked since early March, following Meta’s announcement that it was examining its policies on hate speech directed towards Russian servicemen and President Vladimir Putin in reaction to the country’s war in Ukraine.
According to The Russian News Agency, abbreviated as TASS, Meta’s counsel (attorney), Victoria Shagina, stated in court that the corporation opposed any form of Russophobia and was not engaged in extremist activity.
Because hundreds of thousands of Russians have attempted to avoid the social media ban by using a VPN, Russian prosecutors declared in court that they will not seek to punish Russian residents and organizations who use the two forbidden platforms.
On Monday, Kovalevsky told the court that “the usage of Meta’s products by individuals and legal entities should not be construed as participation in extremist activity.” He went on to say, “Individuals will not be held accountable for using Meta’s services.”
The Russian parliament passed a measure earlier this month that stipulates a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for spreading purposely “fake” material about the military.
“Since the commencement of the special operation in Ukraine, the authorities have attempted to maintain complete control over the country’s information domain. “We should expect further restrictions,” said Alexander Isavnin, a member of the Russian Pirate Party and an online privacy advocate.
“The decision to ban Meta is also a final warning notice to YouTube, the country’s last major remaining western platform,” Isavnin said, referring to recent criticism of YouTube from Russia’s communications regulator and politicians.
Last Friday, Russia’s communication watchdog lambasted YouTube for committing “terrorist activities” by permitting adverts on the video-sharing network that could “damage Russian residents.”
“The activities of the YouTube administration are terroristic in nature and pose a threat to Russian people’ lives and health,” the regulator stated in a statement.