Facebook and Twitter were blocked in Russia on Friday amid President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing military offensive against Ukraine.
In a statement on Friday, Roskomnadzor, the country’s communications regulator, explained that the decision to “block access to the Facebook network” was made after at least 26 cases of “discrimination against Russian media and information resources” since October 2020. Facebook’s recent ban on Kremlin-tied media sources such as RT and Sputnik across the EU.
“Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of everyday ways to connect with family and friends, and silenced without speaking,” wrote Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, Facebook’s parent company. on Twitter In response. “We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they are available to people safely and securely to express and organize for action.”
Hours later, Russian news agency Interfax reported that Roskomnadzor had begun blocking Twitter. Despite the reports, a Twitter spokesperson said the company doesn’t see “anything more significant” than previously reported throttling.
The blocks increase previous restrictions on Facebook and Twitter by the Kremlin. Last week, Clegg He said Russia has blocked the use of the company’s services. The throttling was in response to Meta’s refusal to stop independent fact-checking of Russian state-backed media. Clegg said Meta would make its apps available to Russians, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
The Russian government began throttling Twitter last week, and data from global Internet monitor NetBlocks revealed that the platform was blocked at some Russian telecommunications service providers. At that time, Twitter He said It was aware of the embargo and was “working to keep it [its] The service is secure and accessible.
However, data from GlobalCheck, a service that tracks Internet censorship in countries such as Russia and Belarus, showed that Russia is throttling Facebook. User connections to Facebook in Russia fell to 25% that day, the platform’s most throttled since the start of the offensive last month.
“This is a precise obfuscation aimed at creating throttling and partial restrictions,” NetBlocks told BuzzFeed News on Thursday. “There is no obvious factor that renders a website or social media platform unusable just because it is slow. And in this respect, the act of throttling becomes an information warfare tool in and of itself.
The Russian government has recently relied on throttling as a way to censor internet platforms. Last year, Roskomnadzor launched a novel strategy that effectively blocked access to Twitter during anti-Putin protests. Earlier, Roskomnadzor announced that it had slowed down the speed of the Twitter service because it claimed that the company had failed to remove content related to child pornography, drugs and suicide. At the time, research group Censored Planet called it “the first centrally controlled attempt by the Russian government to use throttling (rather than outright blocking)”.
As Russia continues its offensive, Silicon Valley companies are caught in the middle. Facebook and Twitter said over the weekend that they had taken down two anti-Ukrainian disinformation campaigns. Google-owned Meta, TikTok and YouTube have banned Kremlin-backed outlets RT and Sputnik from their platforms in Europe. Reddit has banned users from posting links to Russian state-owned media. Apple and Google have removed RT from their app stores outside of Russia.