Russia Adds Meta To Terrorist Blacklist

Russian internet © Pavel Ignatov Shutterstock 2012

Moscow declares Meta a terrorist organisation, so accessing Facebook or Instagram is now a criminal offence for Russian citizens

Mark’s Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms has been declared a terrorist organisation by the Russian regime.

Russian authorities have added Meta – which owns Facebook and Instagram – to a list of terrorist and extremist organisations, Reuters reported – citing local news agencies.

This means that it is now a criminal offence for Russians to access Instagram or Facebook, even via a virtual private network (VPN), demand for which has skyrocketed as Russian citizens seek to bypass Moscow’s censorship measures.


Meta clash

Russia was widely condemned for its illegal invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, and crippling sanctions were soon applied, and big name tech firms began withdrawing from the country.

In early March Russia opened a criminal case against Meta, after the social networking giant said it would temporarily allow some “calls for violence” on Facebook and Instagram, in the context of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

This included calls for violence against Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as Russian soldiers invading the country.

Meta’s policy move came after multiple reports emerged of war crimes committed by the Russian military – stoking public anger around the world against Russia and President Putin.

Soon after this Russia responded and banned Instagram, which is widely used and popular with Russian citizens.

It should be remembered that the country’s communications regulator (Roskomnadzor) had already blocked Facebook, after the platform restricted access to Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik in the European Union.

A week after its policy change, Meta subsequently banned calls for death for heads of state, but it said at the time it would still allow other ‘calls for violence’.

Court case

Later in March a court in Moscow rejected a request by Meta Platforms to dismiss extremism charges against it.

Then in June Reuters reported that a Moscow court had rejected an appeal by Meta, after it had been found guilty of “extremist activity” in Russia in March.

In court, Meta’s lawyer at the time said Meta was not carrying out extremist activity and was against Russophobia.

Criminal offence

The banning of Facebook in Russia is not likely to have much of an impact in Russia, as its Russian clone called VK is more popular.

But Instagram is widely used in Russia, and has been accessible via VPNs for Russians.

Incidentally, Roskomnadzor has been clamping down on VPNs for a while now (although they still work), and is likely to expand its banned VPN list.

Meta’s WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in Russia and it is unclear what impact these new measures will have.

However according to Reuters, Russian officials have regularly said Meta’s “extremist” tag does not extend to its WhatsApp messenger service.

“Rosfinmonitoring’s decision to put Meta on the list of extremist organisations in no way changes the situation for users of Meta’s social networks, users of Meta products are not breaking the law,” senior lawmaker Andrey Klishas wrote on Telegram on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

“There are no restrictions in relation to WhatsApp messenger,” he added.