Yesterday, Meta Platforms (the parent company of Facebook) chose to allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russian and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion. Meta even provided an example sentence that it would allow: “death to the Russian invaders”. Reuters reported Meta was temporarily allowing users to post calls for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
At the time, the temporary policy (that allowed some users to break Meta’s hate speech policy) was for users in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.
Today, Reuters reported that Russian prosecutors asked a court to designate Meta Platforms as an “extremist organization,” and the communications regulator said it would restrict access to Meta’s Instagram starting March 14. The company said the decision would affect 80 million users in Russia.
The Verge reported that one week after placing a ban on Facebook in Russia, the country’s communication agency Roskomandzor announced it will ban Instagram, too.
According to The Verge, the Facebook ban cited “discrimination against Russian media”. The Instagram ban is happening because of a decision by parent company Meta directing moderators to allow posts calling for violence against Russian soldiers if they originate from certain countries, including Ukraine.
Interestingly, Russia decided not to block WhatsApp (which is also owned by Meta). Reuters reported that Russia’s RIA News agency cited a source saying the messaging app is considered a means of communication, not a way to post information.
Personally, I am not at all surprised that Meta’s decision to temporarily ignore its policy against hate speech and violence is being remarked upon by Russia. It is never a good idea to encourage anyone to post hate speech and/or violence online, and Meta is a large enough company that it should have known better.