Russia blocks Instagram as part of online censorship

The Russian government has said it will block Instagram, expanding a crackdown on the social network that has cut off access to Facebook and restricted Twitter to tens of millions of people in the country who use the apps daily.

On Friday, the Russian government media agency announced to block Instagram in Russia began on March 14, saying it was in response to Facebook’s decision to Temporarily allowing users in some countries to call for violence against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers, against the backdrop of the invasion. At the same time, the Russian government also said it was seeking to declare Facebook a “Extremist organization.”

“We don’t argue with the Russian people,” said Meta president of global affairs (Facebook’s parent company) Nick Clegg tweeted in a statement on Friday. He said that allowing Ukrainians to call for violence against the Russian military on Facebook was “protecting the people’s right to speech as a way of self-defense against a military invasion of their country.”

Russia’s restrictions on social media come at a time when the government unsurprisingly has increased its clampdown on the free press and other sources of information to control its reporting. Invasion of Ukraine (which the Russian media are not authorized to call war, but instead “special military operations“). Over the past few weeks, the few remaining independent local newspapers in Russia are not affiliated with the government was closedPutin signed a new law that threatens to 15 years in prison for the Russians who posted “fake news” about the invasion and the government was arrest thousands of anti-war protesters.

Now, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – the things Russians use to voice dissent and independently share news about the war’s atrocities – are the latest targets in Putin’s crackdown on the media. While these platforms have complex track records and are sometimes used by bad actors (even the Russian government) to interfere in democracyPutin’s shutdown of these apps will certainly affect political speech in Russia.

Russians can still find other news sources, watch YouTube and communicate on apps like Telegram – one of the most popular social media apps in Russia – but the government is blocking the discussion on three main platforms, where it’s easy to broadcast to a large audience and where people in Russia can share with the rest of the world. Currently, the Russian government has yet to announce its plan to block WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, which is much more popular in Russia than Instagram or Facebook. Russian state media agency RIA Novosti tweeted on Friday that it does not plan to do so because the application is a means of communication. But it’s not clear if that could change in the future if tensions between the Russian government and Meta increase.

“Censorship is an understatement right now for what they are doing,” said UC Irvine law professor and former United Nations special rapporteur for free speech David Kaye.

Meanwhile, Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has accused Facebook is the one who does the censorship, says in statement released on March 4 that the social media company engaged in “discrimination against Russian media and information sources.” Over the past week, Facebook has begun fact-checking what it says are misleading statements published by Russia Today (RT) and other state media in Russia, and it RT is blocked in Europe and UK.

Facebook’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg previously said that the Russian government was trying to stop Facebook from conducting its independent fact-checking efforts, and on March 4 posted a statement on its Twitter account in response to the Kremlin shutting down Facebook.

“Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their daily way of connecting with family and friends, and silenced,” Clegg wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so that they are always available for people to express themselves and organize action safely and securely.”

Twitter has previously said that its services are restricted in Russia but not completely blocked. “We are aware that Twitter is being restricted for some people in Russia and are working hard to keep our service safe and accessible,” the Twitter company said. the account tweeted on February 26th.

While many political experts believe these crackdowns will help the Russian government tighten its grip, in a twist that has surprised some, Ukrainian government leaders recently urged Facebook and Twitter cut off access to their apps in Russia. That’s because the Ukrainian government sees this as a form of “punishment” against the Russian government, in the hope that this action will cause the Russians to pressure the government to act differently.

“There is a strange irony that Ukraine asked companies to take steps that were not available in Russia, and now Russia has done it for them. And I think it’s a bad ending,” Kaye said. He added that he understands Ukrainians’ concerns that social media platforms are being used to spread pro-Russian propaganda and a desire to punish their government.

Social media platforms – especially Facebook – have been criticized for being places anti-democracy and even genocide Movements can flourish, fueled by unchecked misinformation and calls for violence that social media companies have failed to adequately control. But it’s complicated. These platforms are also meaningful tools for free speech, especially in places like Russia, where there are limits to independent media and social networks that fill the void left by filters. created by the state. While the removal of Facebook and Twitter won’t stop political dissent in Russia anytime soon (for now, Russians can still use other apps, like Telegram, to communicate) – this seems to be the case. as just the beginning of Putin’s campaign of repression. It also has the potential to inspire other authoritarian regimes that are considering making similar moves.

Even if social media platforms are blocked in a country, there are always workarounds to avoid restrictions, like using a virtual private network or VPN. But that can make it difficult for many people with insufficient financial or technical skills, or political leanings, to get organized.

Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, senior fellow at the European Center for Policy Analysis, said: “Ordinary Russians are rushing to install VPNs, but that’s only true of the liberal part of society – the rest is left in the dark.” “Global platforms should do whatever it takes to stay afloat.”

Update, March 11, 2022 5:45 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to reflect the new restrictions on Instagram announced by the Russian government. Russia blocks Instagram as part of online censorship

Fry Electronics Team

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