Russia has shut down Instagram in the country, after parent company Meta said it would allow some “calls for violence” in the context of the invasion of Ukraine.
State media regulator Roskomnadzor announced the ban on Friday and gave Russian users a 48-hour grace period to notify their followers and switch to other platforms, ending at midnight on Sunday.
Meta said last week it would temporarily allow users in some countries to call for violence against Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers.
It said it would allow violent posts such as “death to the Russian invaders” that normally break its rules.
Meta said it would be wrong to prevent Ukrainians from “expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces”.
Messages calling for violence against Russian civilians will continue to be barred.
In response, Russia called on the US to stop Meta’s “extremist activities”.
On Friday the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office called for a criminal investigation against Meta under Russia’s propaganda and extremism laws.
It called for Roskomnadzor to restrict access to Instagram over the “distribution of information materials containing calls to carry out violent actions against Russians, including servicemen”.
The regulator has already been blocking Facebook since 4 March over “discrimination” against Russian media.
Meta’s WhatsApp, the country’s most popular messaging platform, has not so far been restricted.
“We demand that US authorities stop the extremist activities of Meta, take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Russia’s US embassy said on Twitter.
“Users of Facebook and Instagram did not give the owners of these platforms the right to determine the criteria of truth and pit nations against each other.”
Instagram had nearly 60 million users in Russia in 2021, according to Statista, about 40 percent of the country’s population.
The platform is a significant revenue source for “influencers” who are paid to post promotional content.
Over the weekend Russian influencers posted tearful farewells to their millions of followers and informed them of alternative accounts on Telegram or Russia’s state-controlled VK social network.
Some of these posts attracted sarcastic replies from users in Ukraine.
“Wow, those are some problems you have,” said a reply to a post by Russian influencer Karina Nigay. “I’m shocked, we have air sirens on here,” another wrote, acording to The Washington Post.
But Instagram is also relied upon by large numbers of Russian small and medium-sized businesses and charities for marketing and fundraising.
Roskomnadzor said it was necessary to shut down Instagram to ensure the “psychological health” of citizens.
“We need to ensure the psychological health of citizens, especially children and adolescents, to protect them from harassment and insults online,” the regulator said.
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