The government has passed a bill that makes ‘false’ reports about the war a crime, so the move to block Facebook and Twitter follows.
In response to Facebook’s decision to limit access to state-owned media, Russia has entirely prohibited access to the site.
The Russian government’s media watchdog, Roscomnadzor, subsequently announced that it had also cut off access to Twitter.
This week, Twitter and its sibling platform Instagram announced that they would delete Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik from their output in the European Union, while on Friday, the UK did likewise, drawing an immediate response from the Russian communications regulator.
According to the Roskomnadzor watchdog, there have been 26 instances of Facebook discriminating against Russian media since October 2020, with state-backed news services like Russia Today and the RIA news agency being denied access. The regulator had announced a “partial” Facebook block the week before, arguing that the social networking site had violated Russian nationals’ rights and freedoms.
The head of global affairs for Facebook’s parent firm, Meta, warned that if the platform is disabled, millions of ordinary Russians will be cut off from reliable information, communication with friends and family will be restricted, and they’ll be “silenced” from speaking out. “We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so that people may safely and securely express themselves and plan for action,” he added.
The move follows passage by the Russian parliament on Friday of a law that criminalizes the intentional dissemination of what Moscow considers to be “fake” news.
The law, swiftly rushed through both houses of the Kremlin-controlled legislature and signed by Putin, gives jail terms of up to 15 years for anybody who spreads false information about the war that is contrary to the Russian government’s version.
In response, several media organizations announced that they would cease their operations in Russia to assess the situation. Among them are CNN, which says it will stop broadcasting in Russia, and Bloomberg and the BBC, which say they will temporarily suspend the work of their journalists there.
Russia is extending its campaign to limit the spread of information on Ukraine’s occupation and suppress dissenting media. The restrictions announced earlier this week on the BBC, the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as well as German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based news site Meduza have now been extended to include Google.
On Friday, Meta announced that it was blocking RT and Sputnik in the United Kingdom. A day earlier, Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, wrote to TikTok, Twitter, and Meta asking them to do so. The EU news organizations have been banned by Meta.
“Earlier this week, we announced that we’d be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU. Consistent with that action, and after a request from the UK government, we will also be restricting access to RT and Sputnik in the UK at this time,” according to Meta.
On Monday, the social networking site announced that it had removed a disinformation network targeting Ukrainians on Facebook and Instagram, which included around 40 accounts, pages, and groups.
Nathaniel Gleicher and David Agranovich, the heads of security policy and threat disruption at Meta, wrote in a blog post that the networks were based in Russia and Ukraine.
“They were run from Russia and Ukraine, and their targets included Ukrainians on numerous social media platforms as well as through their websites. According to the researchers, they deleted this operation, blocked their domains from being shared on our platform, and informed other technology companies, academics, and governments.
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