In the heat of the Ukraine war, Russia claims to be blocking Facebook

Russia claims to be blocking Facebook
pic credit: Google Images| Getty images

Russia’s telecommunications regulator said Friday that it had restricted access to Facebook after the world’s largest social network began making it more difficult to discover information from Russian state-controlled media on its site.

The regulator, Roskomnadzor, said in a statement that it took the decision because the social media platform allegedly violated a federal statute against the restriction of Russian citizens’ “human rights” and “freedoms” by restricting their media outlets. According to the regulator, there have been 26 complaints of “discrimination” by Facebook against Russian media since October 2020.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, tensions between the Russian government and tech companies have continued to rise. In a blog post on Friday, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said it was also halting ads targeting Russians and that Russian advertisers would no longer be allowed to run ads anywhere in the world.

Because of worries that these sites are disseminating false claims and propaganda, Facebook has been under increasing pressure to restrict access to Russian state-controlled media.

After Facebook declined to stop fact-checking and tagging content uploaded on Facebook by four Russian state-owned media groups, Russia stated it was partially blocking access to the site by delaying traffic.

Facebook announced further limitations against Russian media on Tuesday, including the global demotion of posts containing connections to Russian state-controlled media such as RT and Sputnik.

Despite concerns about the spreading of misinformation, Facebook has refrained from blocking Russian users from using its platforms. According to the company, it wishes to foster freedom of expression.

People in Russia are also utilizing Facebook’s services to protest and show the world what’s going on in real-time, according to the social media giant.

On Friday, Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, tweeted, “Soon millions of regular Russians will find themselves shut off from credible information, robbed of their everyday ways of communicating with family and friends, and silenced from speaking up.”

The company stated that it is doing everything it can to get its services back up and running in Russia. It didn’t specify how many people in Russia use Facebook or what it’s doing to get its services back up and running.

When asked if Facebook had noticed any signs that the social network has been entirely disabled, a Meta representative replied he had nothing to say.

Instagram, a photo and video service, and WhatsApp, a messaging app, are both owned by Meta. Roskomnadzor did not specify if the ban applies to certain apps or when it would go into force. A request for comment from the regulator was not immediately returned.

Clegg stated on Tuesday, before the full ban was announced, that Russia’s attempt to choke its services has had an impact on video and other multimedia content, but that this is manifesting differently on Facebook and Instagram.

“The service reduction is clearly visible,” he stated on Tuesday. During that press conference, Clegg claimed he couldn’t go into too much detail about how Russia has been blocking Meta’s services since it involves infrastructure in Russia that Meta does not own. It’s unclear whether Meta has noticed any change on Instagram since Tuesday.

Other services in Russia are restricted other than Facebook

Russia isn’t the only country that is cracking down on social media sites. Several major app stores, Western news organizations, and other social media sites are said to have been blocked by the country.

The Russian telecommunications authority has also disabled Twitter, according to Interfax. “We’re aware of reports,” a business spokeswoman said, “but we don’t currently see anything fundamentally different from what we previously revealed that would suggest to a block.” On Saturday, Twitter announced that some users in Russia will be unable to use the service.

Russia has also blocked news organizations BBC and Deutsche Welle, as well as the app store, according to Der Spiegel reporter Mathieu von Rohr, who didn’t specify whether he was referring to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

In a blog post, the Latvian news site Meduza stated that many Russian users were unable to access the organization’s website.

Requests for comment from Apple, Google, the BBC, and Deutsche Welle were not answered.

Ukraine’s tech minister requested that Apple CEO Tim Cook block access to the App Store in Russia in retaliation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. When it took action a few days ago, the tech giant didn’t go quite that far, opting instead to remove RT News and Sputnik News from the App Store outside of Russia and stop selling items in Russia. Access to Russian state-controlled media outlets such as RT and Sputnik has also been limited on Facebook and YouTube.

Other digital giants have responded to the invasion by restricting service and banning sales in the country to comply with formal US sanctions. However, some have attempted to penalize without cutting off local access, resulting in actions such as Snapchat’s, which has banned ad sales in Russia while leaving the service operational as a communications tool in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus.

Blocking access to app stores, Western news sites, and social media, according to CNET’s Stephen Shankland, might create a “splinternet” that separates Russian online interaction from the rest of the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.