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Russia says it’s blocking Facebook in alarming new censorship push

Russia says it’s blocking Facebook in alarming new censorship push

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There have been protests throughout the country

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Russia’s communications agency Roskomnadzor announced Friday that it is blocking access to Facebook in Russia. It cited 26 cases of “discrimination against Russian media and information resources by Facebook” since October 2020, in addition to the more-recent restrictions Facebook has placed on Russian state media outlets.

In response, Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg tweeted in response to the move, saying “Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out. We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organize for action.”

The block comes after increasing domestic protests over the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Russians have taken to the streets in massive numbers to protest the ongoing invasion, provoking thousands of arrests. The regime has denied any plans to institute martial law, but has issued ongoing threats to outlets that publish information critical of the ongoing war effort, including Wikipedia.

Earlier on Friday, the Russian legislature advanced a new law against spreading “fake news” about the country’s armed forces, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Shortly after the bill was advanced, the BBC announced it would suspend journalistic operations within the country.

Many tech platforms have already begun restricting services in Russia. Google-owned YouTube has blocked Russian news channels RT and Sputnik in Europe, for example, while Facebook has blocked RT and Sputnik in the EU and stopped recommending Russian state media globally. Apple has also halted product sales in the country.

More than 1 million Ukrainians have fled the country as a result of the invasion, according to a recent estimate by the United Nations’ refugee agency.

Update March 4th, 1:58PM ET: Added response from Meta’s Nick Clegg.

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