A court in Moscow banned Facebook and Instagram for ignoring the requests from the government of Russia to remove the ‘fake news’ about Russian military actions in Ukraine.
The court called the move ‘extremist activity’ as the sites were allegedly calling for anti-war protests in Russia, international news agency Associated Press reported on Monday.
The Tverskoy District Court had fulfilled a request from prosecutors to outlaw Meta Platforms Inc. and banned Facebook and Instagram for “extremist activities.”
The Russian prosecutor had accused the social media platforms of ignoring government requests to remove the fake news about Russian military actions in Ukraine and calls for anti-war protests in Russia.
The court’s ruling bans Meta from opening offices and doing business in Russia.
However, the prosecutors hadn’t requested to ban the Meta-owned messaging service WhatsApp, which is widely used in Russia.
The authorities had emphasized that they haven’t intended to punish individual Russians who use Facebook or Instagram.
Instagram and Facebook were already blocked in Russia after the country’s communications and media regulator Roskomnadzor said they were being used to call for violence against Russian soldiers.
In addition to blocking Facebook and Instagram, the Russian authorities had shut access to foreign media websites, including BBC, the US government-funded, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.
Earlier on Monday, Roskomnadzor blocked the website of Euronews, a European news network. The regulator had cut also Euronews broadcasts in the country.
The court’s verdict had come amid multipronged efforts by Russian authorities to control the message about Russia’s military action in Ukraine, which the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation” intended to uproot alleged “neo-Nazi nationalists”, the report said.
On March 4, a new law fast-tracked by the Kremlin-controlled parliament, a week after Russia launched the attack on Ukraine, envisions prison terms of up to 15 years for posting “fake” information about the military that differs from the official narrative.