On Monday, US social networks Facebook and Instagram were banned by Russia after the country said they were carrying out “extremist” activities, the next stage of the information war in the ongoing attack in Ukraine.
The court said that “social networks run by Meta are banned for extremist activity” in a message on Telegram. The ban will block the social networks from doing business in Russia, and users will no longer have access to the platforms.
Earlier on Monday, Russia’s Security Services (FSB) called for an “immediate” ban on Facebook and Instagram, accusing them of activities “directed against Russia and its armed forces”.
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has tightened its control over information circulated on the Internet, one of the last places for free expression in the country.
Though the court defined Meta as an extremist organisation, only Facebook and Instagram will be affected by the ban. In contrast, the decision has not affected the messaging application WhatsApp as the court ruled that it was not used as a means of “public dissemination of information.”
Instagram and Facebook, like Twitter, have now been blocked in Russia, where they are virtually inaccessible unless you use a virtual private network (VPN).
Russia has an estimated 71 million Facebook users and over 64 million Instagram users, while WhatsApp is Meta’s most used platform in Russia with an estimated 84 million users.
Last week, Facebook and Instagram relaxed their rules on violent messages against the Russian army and its leaders. Their new moderation policy allowed users in Ukraine and other eastern European countries to call for violence against Russian soldiers.
The platforms initially allowed posts calling for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. However, it later narrowed its policy with guidance explicitly banning calls for violence against Russian citizens or any heads of state.