Instagram is the latest social platform to face a ban in Russia

14 Mar 2022

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Russia’s communications regulator cited Instagram’s hate speech policy relaxation in Ukraine as the reason behind the block.

Instagram is the latest social media platform to face a ban in Russia.

Users of the Meta-owned platform were informed on Friday (11 March) by Russia’s state communications regulator Roskomnadzor that the service would be banned from today (14 March).

Future Human

It said the move was in response to Meta’s decision to allow Facebook and Instagram users in Ukraine to call for violence against Russia in the context of the ongoing invasion.

Internet watchdog NetBlocks said yesterday evening that real-time network data suggested Instagram was now restricted in Russia across multiple providers.

Earlier this month, access to Twitter and Facebook was blocked by regulators in Russia after the platforms introduced restrictions on Russian media organisations such as RT and Sputnik.

Messages such as “death to the Russian invaders” have been seen on Instagram and other platforms in Ukraine as Russian forces continue the invasion of the country.

Meta said last week it had temporarily tweaked its hate speech policy to allow such messages, saying that Ukrainians have a right to express “their resistance and fury” at the invading Russian forces.

But Russia has opened a criminal investigation against Meta, calling for the US tech giant to be deemed an “extremist organisation” for selectively censoring hate speech.

Meta has defended its decision and Nick Clegg, the company’s president of global affairs, said the policy is focused on “protecting people’s rights to speech as an expression of self-defence in reaction to a military invasion of their country”.

“This is a temporary decision taken in extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances,” he added in a statement on Friday. “We will be keeping the situation under review in the period ahead.”

In a tweet on Friday, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said the decision to block the platform in Russia is “wrong” and will “cut 80m in Russia off from one another and from the rest of the world”.

The message from Roskomnadzor, seen by Reuters, asked Instagram users to move their content from the platform before it was taken down and to start using domestic Russian platforms such as VK.

“We need to ensure the psychological health of citizens, especially children and adolescents, to protect them from harassment and insults online,” said Roskomnadzor, which deems the decision to not censor hate speech in Ukraine as a violation of international law.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic