Russian communications regulator blocks Facebook over ‘discrimination’ against state-backed media in European Union and UK, as Twitter also blocked
Facebook has been completely blocked in Russia in response to the platform’s restrictions on Russian state-backed media, the country’s communications regulator said.
It added that Twitter had also been restricted in the country amidst Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Facebook criticised the move, which took effect on Friday, saying it would deprive Russians of reliable information and the ability to communicate with friends and family.
Facebook and sister platform Instagram removed state-backed media Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik from their feeds in the European Union last week and did the same with the UK on Friday.
The Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor said there had been 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media by Facebook since October 2020, including restrictions on state-backed news serviecs like RT and the RIA news agency.
The regulator said the block was introduced “to prevent violations of the key principles of the free flow of information”.
Two weeks ago the regulator had announced a partial block on Facebook, saying it had violated the “rights and freedoms of Russian nationals”. Twitter was also blocked in the country at the time.
Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Facebook parent Meta, said that “soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information”.
He added that the block would deprive Russians of communications with friends and family and would mean they were “silenced from speaking out”.
On the Russian government’s decision to block access to Facebook in the Russian Federation: pic.twitter.com/JlJwIu1t9K
— Nick Clegg (@nickclegg) March 4, 2022
‘Fake news’ law
“We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organise for action,” he said.
The US administration said it was “deeply concerned” by the Russian move, which it said was part of a broader effort to “choke off information”.
The US was “concerned about the threat on freedom of speech in the country”, said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Russia’s Parliament last week passed a law that institutes a prison sentence of up to 15 years for people spreading intentionally “fake” news about the military.
TikTok limited its services in Russia over the weekend in response to the law, while Netflix said it would suspend services there to protect its staff.
Media groups such as the BBC, CNN and Bloomberg have suspended operations in Russia because of the law.