A Moscow court banned Facebook and Instagram on Monday for what it deemed extremist activity in a case against their parent company, Meta. The Tverskoy District Court fulfilled a request from prosecutors to outlaw Meta and banned Facebook and Instagram for what they called “extremist activities.” Russian prosecutors have accused the social media platforms of ignoring government requests to remove what they described as fake news about Russian military actions in Ukraine and calls for anti-war protests in Russia.
The court’s ruling bans Meta from opening offices and doing business in Russia. Meta declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.
Prosecutors haven’t requested to ban the Meta-owned messaging service WhatsApp, which is widely popular in Russia. The authorities also emphasized that they do not intend to punish individual Russians who use Facebook or Instagram.
Instagram and Facebook were already blocked in Russia after the country’s communications and media regulator Roskomnadzor said they were being used to call for violence against Russian soldiers. In addition to blocking Facebook and Instagram, Russian authorities also have shut access to foreign media websites, including BBC, the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.
Continuing the effort, Roskomnadzor on Monday blocked the website of Euronews, a European news network. The regulator has also cut Euronews broadcasts.
The court’s verdict comes amid multipronged efforts by Russian authorities to control the message about Russia’s military action in Ukraine, which the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation” intended to uproot alleged “neo-Nazi nationalists.”
A new law fast-tracked on March 4 by the Kremlin-controlled parliament, a week after Russia launched the attack on Ukraine, envisions prison terms of up to 15 years for posting “fake” information about the military that differs from the official narrative.