Russian authorities blocked access to Facebook on Friday, claiming the world’s largest social media company had broken the country’s rules by limiting online access to state-backed media.
The decision by Russia’s media and telecoms regulator is the latest move in a quickly escalating standoff between Western tech companies and the Kremlin.
After initially dragging their feet when the Russian military invaded Ukraine last week, the likes of Facebook’s parent company Meta, Google and Twitter have subsequently blocked access to Russian state media within the EU in response. They have also removed ads from Kremlin-backed outlets and demoted their content in online searches.
“This is a highly exceptional and tragic state of affairs, which is why not only ourselves but many others in the tech sector are taking these pretty exceptional measures at this time,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, told reporters this week.
After the ban was announced, Clegg, the former British deputy prime minister, said Russian citizens would be “silenced from speaking out,” and the company would work to reconnect its services within Russia.
Social media platforms have tried to balance Western governments’ demands to remove Kremlin disinformation from their platforms while remaining accessible to Russian users to provide them with independent information about the war in Ukraine.
The Russian government has quickly hit back. It’s choked access to these Western social media platforms, but its outright ban of Facebook marks an escalation in the Kremlin’s response to Silicon Valley’s efforts to hinder Russian propaganda from spreading.
“Since October 2020, 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media and information resources by Facebook have been recorded,” the Russian regulator, Roskomnadzor, said in a statement. “A decision was made to block access to the Facebook network in the Russian Federation.”
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