Facebook has reacted angrily to a ban on its platforms enacted in Russia on Friday in the midst of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The suspension, according to Russia’s communications authority, is in retaliation to limitations imposed on its media in the country. Since October 2020, Facebook has been accused of “discrimination” against Russian media, according to the report. There were also allegations that the Russian regulator, Roskomnadzor, had blocked the usage of Twitter on Friday evening.
“Soon millions of regular Russians will find themselves blocked off from accurate information,” Facebook’s head of global relations, Nick Clegg, said. Facebook, as well as other platforms such as Twitter, had previously been restricted in the country. Facebook had not been completely blocked in the country, despite its restricted use. According to Russian media on Friday, Twitter was prohibited following a request from the prosecutor general on February 24, the day of the invasion of Ukraine. The BBC reached out to Twitter for comment on the reports, but the company did not immediately respond.
Last week, however, Meta, the corporation that owns Facebook, announced that it had imposed restrictions on Russian-backed sites across the European Union and was demoting content from state-affiliated media globally. It had also refused to quit fact-checking RT and Sputnik, two Russian state-run news organizations. “Since October 2020, 26 occurrences of discrimination against Russian media and information resources by Facebook have been recorded,” Russia’s media authority stated in a statement.
On the Russian government's decision to block access to Facebook in the Russian Federation: pic.twitter.com/JlJwIu1t9K— Nick Clegg (@nickclegg) March 4, 2022
According to the statement, the Facebook platform ban was implemented “to prevent violations of the essential principles of the free flow of information.” “We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so that people may safely and securely express themselves and organize for action,” Meta said in response.
The White House said Russia’s decision to block the US corporation was “extremely concerning,” and that it was part of a larger effort to “choke off information.” “This is part of their effort… to cut off a spectrum of information from their people,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, adding that the US was also concerned about the country’s “threat to freedom of speech.”
The prohibition comes after Russia’s Parliament passed a new rule this week that makes publishing purposefully “fake” material about the military punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
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