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Russian court upholds ban on ‘extremist’ Facebook and Instagram

Meta is banned from doing business in the country

facebook stock art Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A judge in the Tverskoy Court of Moscow has ruled to ban Meta based on Facebook and Instagram for engaging in “extremist activities,” as initially reported by Russian state-owned media outlet TASS. Judge Olga Solopova said “The court has ruled to grant the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office’s lawsuit,” according to Interfax. The ban will block Meta from doing business or opening new branches in the country and will take effect “immediately.” It doesn’t include WhatsApp.

Last week, Facebook and Instagram outlined a moderation policy allowing users in Ukraine and other eastern European countries to call for violence against Russian soldiers. The platforms initially told moderators to allow posts with calls for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, but later narrowed its policy with guidance explicitly banning calls for violence against Russian citizens or any heads of state, according to Reuters.

“We believe that the company’s operations are subject to a ban in connection with the engagement by it in extremist activities,” an official for Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said during the hearing, according to a report by Interfax. The Russian prosecutor general’s office requested the ban, along with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).

TASS quoted an FSB officer arguing that “Meta’s activities are geared against Russia and its armed forces. We insist Meta’s activities be banned immediately.” According to the outlet, representatives for the prosecution said that the use of Facebook and Instagram would not make individuals liable for participating in extremism, however, TASS also cited lawyers saying that purchasing advertising on the services could be viewed as financing extremism.

Roskomnadzor placed bans on access to Facebook and Instagram earlier this month after accusing both platforms of discriminating against content from Russian state media, as both platforms have moved to demote content from any state-backed outlets. Facebook has also blocked access to the state-owned outlets RT and Sputnik in the European Union, as well as banned Russian state media from advertising on the platform.