Facebook And Twitter Have Been Blocked In Russia

Facebook and Twitter were blocked in Russia on Friday as part of President Vladimir Putin’s military invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement issued on Friday, the country’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, announced that access to the Facebook network would be blocked. The decision was made in response to at least 26 instances of “discrimination against Russian media and information resources” since October 2020. The agency specifically highlighted Facebook’s recent restriction of Kremlin-linked media sources RT and Sputnik across the EU.

Meta’s President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, expressed concern about the blocking, stating that millions of ordinary Russians would now be cut off from reliable information, prevented from connecting with family and friends, and silenced from speaking out. He emphasized that Meta would continue to work towards restoring their services to ensure they remain available for safe expression and organizing for action.

Shortly after, Russian news agency Interfax reported that Roskomnadzor had also started blocking Twitter. However, a Twitter spokesperson downplayed the significance of these reports, stating that they didn’t see anything significantly different from the throttling that had been reported earlier.

These blocks represent an escalation of previous restrictions imposed on Facebook and Twitter by the Kremlin. Last week, Clegg revealed that Russia had restricted the use of Meta’s services due to the company’s refusal to stop independent fact-checking of Russian state-backed media. Despite this, Clegg affirmed that Meta would continue to make its apps, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, available to Russian users.

Last week, Russia also began throttling Twitter, with several Russian telecommunications service providers restricting access to the platform. Twitter acknowledged the restriction and stated that they were working to ensure the safety and accessibility of their service.

On Thursday, Russian-language Twitter users commented that Facebook, along with the BBC and independent Russian news outlet Meduza, were blocked in Russia. GlobalCheck, a service tracking internet censorship, reported that user connections to Facebook in Russia reached only 25% that day, marking the most significant throttling since the start of the invasion.

This use of throttling and partial restrictions creates ambiguity, making it challenging to determine when a website or social media platform becomes unusable. This, in turn, transforms throttling into a tool of information warfare, according to NetBlocks, an organization monitoring internet freedom.

Roskomnadzor has increasingly relied on throttling as a method of internet censorship. Last year, it employed a novel technique to restrict access to Twitter during anti-Putin protests. Prior to that, the agency slowed down Twitter speeds, claiming the company had failed to remove content related to child pornography, drugs, and suicide. This marked the first centrally controlled attempt by the Russian government to use throttling instead of outright blocking, according to research group Censored Planet.

Silicon Valley companies find themselves caught in the middle as Russia’s invasion continues. Facebook and Twitter have taken down two anti-Ukrainian disinformation campaigns, while Meta, TikTok, and YouTube have banned Kremlin-backed outlets RT and Sputnik in Europe. Reddit has also banned users from posting links to Russian state-owned media, and Apple and Google have removed RT from their app stores outside of Russia.

What do you think?

Written by Western Reader

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