Russia blocks Facebook for 146 million citizens amid Ukraine war

Move comes after Russian media was blocked on social media platform, regulator says

Roskomnadzor, said there had been 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media by Facebook since October 2020. Reuters
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Russia has announced it is blocking access to Facebook for its 146 million citizens amid the conflict in Ukraine.

The decision was announced by the country's communications regulator on Friday in response to what it said were restrictions on access to Russian media on the social media platform.

The regulator, Roskomnadzor, said there had been 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media by Facebook since October 2020, with access restricted to state-backed channels such as RT and the RIA news agency.

Tass news agency reported on Friday that Russia has restricted access to Twitter. Interfax news agency earlier said the service had been blocked.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It comes as the Duma, Russia's parliament, pushed through new laws that outlawed “fake” or “false” news about the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

Meta's head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said the company would continue to do everything it could to restore its services.

“Soon, millions of ordinary Russian will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Meta this week said it had restricted access to RT and Sputnik across the EU and was globally demoting content from Russian state-controlled outlets on Facebook and Instagram, including posts containing links to those outlets on Facebook.

Last week, Moscow said it was partially limiting access to Facebook, a move the company said came after it refused a government request to stop the independent fact-checking of several Russian state media outlets.

By Saturday, Twitter also said its service was being restricted for some Russian users.

Facebook Messenger became unavailable to Russian users as early as Monday, reports said.

Major tech and social media companies have faced pressure to respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has led to economic sanctions against Moscow by governments around the world.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation".

Roskomnadzor said Meta had restricted access to the accounts of state-backed news outlets in recent days, listing RT, Sputnik, the RIA news agency, the defence ministry's Zvezda TV and websites gazeta.ru and lenta.ru.It.

Such restrictions, the agency said, violated the key principles of freedom of information and Russian internet users' unimpeded access to Russian media.

Popular VPN apps have been downloaded more than 1.3 million times in Russia since the invasion began, said data from researcher AppFigures, describing the figure as a major surge.

Updated: March 04, 2022, 8:53 PM
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