Russian Media Watchdog Threatens To Ban Facebook Over ‘Legal High’ Ads

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Facebook says adverts for smoking blends were the result of a technical glitch

The Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) has threatened Facebook with a blanket ban over claims the social network has advertised smoking blends designed to replicate the effects of cannabis.

According to Russia Today, the government agency has launched an investigation and said it would be willing to go as far as instructing ISPs to block Facebook across the country, if it finds proof of criminal activity.

In the UK, ‘legal highs’ is used as a colloquial term to describe substances which can cause effects similar to those of illegal drugs, but not covered by the British misuse of drugs laws. Smoking blends that fit into this category usually contain extracts of Salvia divinorum, Hawaiian Wood Rose or Blue Lotus – all freely available in the UK, but banned in Russia since 2010.

In Russia, herb burns you!

The incident began after several users reported certain Facebook ads were advertising illegal products, and leading to online stores delivering those products across Russia and Ukraine.

Roskomnadzor Logo“If we find violations in the advertising law, then we will open up an investigation. In case narcotics are involved, then we will forward all the materials to the Federal Service for Drug Control,” Andrey Kashevarov, deputy head of Roskomnadzor told Itar-Tass.

Roskomnadzor is the agency which was recently given powers to ‘blacklist’ Internet resources, even before the issue of a court order.

“If Facebook does not respond then [the media watchdog] will have a reason to put the company’s website on the list of banned sites [in Russia],” said Vladimir Pikov, spokesman for the agency.

In response, Facebook said the appearance of adverts was caused by a glitch, and promised to remove all illegal content. Lawyers representing the social network argue that in order to bring a case against Facebook, the watchdog needs to prove that it knew about advertisements – otherwise responsibility lies with the seller.

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