Russia restricts Facebook access for ‘censoring’ its media

Moscow announced on Friday that it was temporarily restricting access to Meta Platforms Inc’s (FB.O) Facebook, accusing the company of “censoring” Russian media. The move comes a day after Russia invaded Ukraine and is the latest in a series of actions against American social media behemoths.

Moscow has also stepped up its pressure on domestic media, threatening to prevent publications that include “fake information” about its military action in Ukraine, where Russian missiles pounded Kyiv and families sought refuge in bunkers.

Facebook had refused the state communications regulator’s calls to relax limitations on four Russian media outlets on its platform: the RIA news agency, the Defense Ministry’s Zvezda TV, and the websites gazeta.ru and lenta.ru, according to the state communications regulator.

Nick Clegg, Meta’s head of global relations, stated in a statement on Twitter: “Russian authorities instructed us to stop fact-checking and labelling content uploaded on Facebook by four Russian state-owned media groups yesterday. We turned down the offer. As a result, they’ve indicated that they’ll be limiting our services’ use.”

Meta, which has long been criticised for failing to combat disinformation, has partnered with third-party fact-checkers, to examine some content for accuracy. According to Meta, content that has been labelled false, changed, or partially false is shown to fewer users.

Clegg claimed that “ordinary Russians” were using Meta’s apps to “express themselves and organise for action,” and that the business wanted them to keep doing so. Meta’s apps include Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, as well as Facebook.

For years, Russia has attempted to tighten control over the internet and big tech, which critics say threatens individual and corporate freedom and is part of a larger crackdown on outspoken Kremlin critics.

Senator Mark Warner of the United States wrote to the CEOs of Facebook, YouTube, and other social media companies, saying that the companies have a responsibility to guarantee that their platforms are not abused by Russia or Russia-linked entities.

According to Warner, every corporation has a “clear responsibility to guarantee that your products are not used to enable human rights abuses, degrade humanitarian and emergency response efforts, or spread harmful disinformation.”

Google (GOOGL.O), a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O), said it has banned hundreds of YouTube channels and thousands of videos for breaching its standards in recent days, and that it was continuing to hunt for and disrupt disinformation operations and hacks. Google is also weighing the implications of any additional restrictions or export limitations, according to spokeswoman Ivy Choi.

Users in Russia and Ukraine will no longer see adverts, in an effort to prevent distracting from public safety messaging, and they will no longer receive recommended tweets from accounts they do not follow, in an effort to curb the dissemination of abusive information, according to Twitter Inc (TWTR.N).

It was not immediately obvious what Russia’s Facebook limitations would entail. As a form of retaliation, Moscow reduced the speed of Twitter last year.

“Starting February 25, partial access restrictions on the Facebook social network will be implemented by Roskomnadzor in compliance with the decision of the General Prosecutor’s Office,” Roskomnadzor stated in a statement.

Russia’s officials have previously expressed their displeasure with Meta. Moscow fines the corporation on a regular basis for failing to erase unlawful content quickly enough, according to Moscow.

It fined it 2 billion roubles ($24 million) in December for what it described as a pattern of failure to erase content. Google, Twitter, and TikTok have also been punished.

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