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Russian court upholds Meta ban for ‘extremist’ activities

Topline

A Russian court on Monday upheld a March ruling that found social media company Meta guilty of “extremist activity”, according to state news agency Tass, months after the country banned Facebook for restricting access to Russian media sites and Instagram for temporarily allowing users to express hate speech against Russia in the context of its invasion of Ukraine.

Highlights

The Moscow City Court’s ruling comes two months after Meta appealed the ruling, which barred the social media giant from operating in Russia and banned several of the company’s apps in the country.

The court also on Monday dismissed two complaints from Meta users who argued they were affected by the ban, which excludes Meta’s popular messaging app, WhatsApp.

This decision means that Facebook and Instagram will continue to be banned in Russia for the foreseeable future.

A spokesperson for Meta did not respond to a request for comment.

Key context

In March, Russia opened a criminal investigation against Meta and branded the company an “extremist” organization after reports emerged that Facebook’s parent company had temporarily suspended its anti-Russian hate speech rules in March. the context of the war in Ukraine. The move allowed users to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers on Instagram. The company later clarified that the policy would not allow posts calling for the murder of Russian leaders. The March decision came after the Kremlin had already decided to limit access to Facebook in February in response to the social media site restricting access to some pro-Russian news media accounts. Russia claimed the move violated “fundamental human rights and freedoms,” while Meta claimed Russia was blocking efforts to conduct independent fact checks and label misleading content on Facebook. The Kremlin has tried to crack down on a slew of social media sites, including YouTube and Twitter, also banned in the country, after the platforms took steps to limit the spread of Russian disinformation related to the war in Ukraine.

Tangent

Some reports suggest that the Russians tried to break social media bans to access different news sources. The day before Russia banned Instagram in March, demand for virtual private networks (VPNs) that allow users to hide their location to access censored websites increased by more than 2,000%, according to TOP10VPN, a digital surveillance company.

Further reading

Meta loses appeal in Russian court over ‘extremist activity’ label -TASS (Reuters)

Russia says it will limit access to Facebook, a major platform for dissent. (New York Times)

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Post expires at 4:19pm on Thursday June 30th, 2022