A Moscow court on Monday approved a request from prosecutors to outlaw Facebook and Instagram due to “extremist activities.” Prosecutors have accused the social media companies of refusing to comply with government requests to remove what they deem fake news about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the organizing of anti-war protests in Russia.
In a case against parent company Meta, the court banished the social media platforms from opening offices or conducting business in Russia. According to the state-controlled media outlet TASS, individuals will not be charged with “extremism” for continuing to use Facebook and Instagram.
WhatsApp, the Meta-owned messaging service that is widely used in Russia, was not named in the ban. However, as of today Telegram has surpassed WhatsApp to become the most popular platform amid increasing restrictions placed on foreign digital services, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Russian authorities have actively promoted Telegram as an alternative, Reuters reported.
The Russian-founded app hosts content channels for the majority of Russian media, government entities and public figures.
Facebook and Instagram were already blocked from Russia. Earlier this month, internet censor agency Roskomnadzor announced in a Telegram post that Meta was illegally suppressing information from various Russian media outlets on its platforms.
Along with Meta, the BBC, U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza have all been blocked.
Major media and tech companies – including Google, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok – have suspended ad sales and removed state-backed news organizations from using their platforms, and have implemented policies to combat misinformation about the war.