Amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Russia has officially blocked Facebook and continues to restrict Twitter from the tens of millions of users in the country who use the apps daily.
The move comes at a time when the Russian government is unsurprisingly increasing its crackdown on the free press and other sources of information to control the narrative about its invasion of Ukraine (which Russian media is not allowed to call a war, but instead a “special military operation”), VoX reported.
In the past few weeks, the few remaining independent local news outlets in Russia that are not government-affiliated have been shut down, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law that threatens up to 15 years in jail for Russians who post “fake news” about the invasion, and the government has already arrested thousands of anti-war protesters.
Now, Facebook and Twitter — which Russians have used to voice dissent and share independent news about the brutality of the war — are the latest target of Putin’s crackdown on media.
While Facebook and Twitter have complicated track records and are sometimes used by bad actors (even the Russian government itself) to interfere with democracy, Putin’s shutdown of these apps will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on political speech in Russia, the report said.
It’s unclear if Russia blocks will extend to other apps that Facebook’s parent company Meta owns, like WhatsApp and Instagram.
Meanwhile, Russia’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, has accused Facebook of being the one doing the censoring, saying in a statement released on Friday that the social media company was engaging in “discrimination against Russian media and information resources.”
In the past week, Facebook has begun fact-checking what it says are misleading claims published by Russia Today (RT) and other state media within Russia, and it’s blocked RT in Europe and the UK.
Facebook’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg previously said that the Russian government was trying to stop Facebook from implementing its independent fact-checking efforts, and on Friday posted a statement on his Twitter account in response to the Kremlin’s Facebook shutdown.