A Russian court has banned the use of Facebook and Instagram after labeling the activities of the apps’ parent company Meta as “extremist,” according to state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.
The move came after Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office petitioned a Moscow court to designate Meta as an “extremist organization” for allowing users to call for violence against President Vladimir Putin in some countries and Russian soldiers participating in the country’s invasion of Ukraine. WhatsApp, owned by Meta, is also not part of the ban. Meta declined to comment on the record.
Individuals do not face criminal charges for using Facebook or Instagram. “The use of Meta products by individuals and legal entities should not be considered as participation in extremist activities,” a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told state media outlet TASS. “Individuals cannot be held liable for using Meta’s services.”
Citing prosecutors, Russian human rights organization Net Freedoms Project said paying for ads on its Telegram channel, Instagram and Facebook could now be considered financing an extremist organization. It said anyone with links to Facebook and Instagram, a business or anyone with a business card showing the website and apps’ logos could face criminal charges. “This is a public display of symbols of an extremist organization,” the organization said.
The ruling allows Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state media watchdog office, to immediately block Meta’s social networks and close down related offices in Russia.
Russia blocked access to Facebook earlier this month. A week later, Roskomnadzor announced that it would block Instagram in Ukraine in response to the publication of a meta that allowed Facebook and Instagram users to post “forms of political expression” that often violate the company’s rules against violent speech, such as “to the death” of Russian aggressors.
RIA Novosti wrote that Russian prosecutors believe the spread of “extremist information” on Facebook and Instagram “threatens both individuals and society as a whole, and that the company violated its own rules by allowing it to publish calls for the killing of the Russian military.”
In February, Meta blocked access to Russian state media RT and Sputnik in the EU. Other American tech companies, including Google and Apple, have responded to the attack by blocking access to Russian state media.