Moscow court rejects Facebook parent Meta Platforms’ request to dismiss case to designate it as ‘extremist’ organisation amidst Ukraine conflict
A court in Moscow on Monday rejected a request by Facebook parent company Meta Platforms to dismiss extremism charges against it, according to local news agencies.
The official Tass news agency earlier reported that Meta had asked for a delay to give the company more time to prepare its defence.
“Meta is a foreign legal entity that does not have legal representation in the Russian Federation,” said Victoria Shagina, the company’s lawyer, according to Tass. “On this basis, we ask you to stop the proceedings in this case.”
Meta also questioned whether the court had the authority to ban its activities, Tass reported from the courtroom.
Shagina told the court that Meta was not carrying out extremist activities and stood against Russophobia, according to Interfax.
Prosecutors said they were not seeking to block the activities of Meta’s WhatsApp in Russia, according to Tass.
But an extremist designation would ban Meta from doing business in the country and it was not immediately clear how WhatsApp could continue operating in the event it was applied.
Communications regulator Roskomnadzor told the court it favoured a ban on Meta’s activities, according to Tass.
The agency said a representative of the FSB security services also supported this view to the court.
Earlier this month Russia’s Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes, launched an investigation into Meta under the country’s extremism laws after the firm said it would allow calls for violence against the Russian military and President Vladimir Putin in some countries on Facebook and Instagram.
Meta later narrowed its stance to bar calls for the death of any head of state, such as Putin.
It said it was appropriate to temporarily allow certain forms of expression in light of the conflict in Ukraine.
The company said calls for violence against Russian civilians continued to be banned and that the guidance to its content monitors should not be considered as condoning violence against Russians in general.
In response Roskomnadzor blocked access to Meta’s Instagram. Facebook was already blocked in the country after it limited access to posts by Russian state media from outside Russia.
The “extremist” designation was initially used for groups such as the Taliban and Islamic State but was later applied to Jehova’s Witnesses and Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.