May 25, 2022

The Russian government has said it is restricting access to Instagram. These are the latest government sanctions against major foreign technology platforms since the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia blames this on the policy of changing the language of meta-hate, as previously reported Reuters censor instagramI

But he The move comes as Putin continues to tighten control over the digital information sector, allowing Russian citizens to block government propaganda and access information about the war without censorship, for example by passing a new law criminalizing independent publications about the Russian military (which involves with threats of up to 15 years in prison for disseminating “false” information).

In a statement announcing the blocking of Instagram, the Russian government said its national internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, would “restrict” access to the Meta photo-sharing site, writing that the platform would be used “as a call for informational content.” c is “violence against Russian civilians, including soldiers” (translated using machine translation):

“Based on the request of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, access to the Instagram social network (owned by Meta Platform, Inc.) on the territory of the Russian Federation will be limited.

“The social network Instagram distributes informational materials calling for violence against citizens of the Russian Federation, including military personnel.”

Facebook and Twitter have already faced sanctions in Russia, but Instagram, which is popular in the country, has yet to be named as a target of sanctions.

Facebook was subject to a “partial” block in Russia on February 25 after the platform restricted access to some state media.

Around the same time, Twitter users also reported problems accessing the site – the company later confirmed reports of “difficulties” accessing the service for Russian users, saying it was in the process of restoring full access.

Since then, Twitter has launched a dedicated Tor-UI service, a solution for anyone who wants to bypass government censorship to access their network. (Facebook has had a Tor service since 2014.)

Russia’s move against Instagram follows a specific policy change by Meta that has come under increased human rights criticism (including from the United Nations).

Reuters news agency reported earlier today that it had received confirmation that Meta… Allowing users in some countries to call for violence against certain Russians in light of the war in Ukraine is a suspension of the default rules on hate speech in this context.

A META spokesman said in a statement: “As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have temporarily taken into account forms of political expression that generally violate our rules, such as violent statements such as ‘death of Russian occupiers.’ to Reuters. I “We continue to not tolerate credible calls for violence against Russian citizens.”

Internal emails to moderators verified by the news agency also indicated that death threats against Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko would also be allowed, unless the threats were also sent to others and/or additional “credibility indicators” were provided. (such as place and method) are also indicated.

Roskomnadzor’s statement announcing sanctions on Instagram cites Meta’s spokesperson’s confirmation of the change in hate speech policy — naming the Russian government, Andy Stone – Policy change statement says r. PleaseResidents of a number of countries for “posting information calling for violence against Russian citizens, including military personnel.”

It’s unclear if messaging app WhatsApp, another platform from Meta, will face similar restrictions.

WhatsApp declined to comment. but some reports suggested that the Russian authorities treat it differently because it is not a public social network.

However, the Russian government is certainly moving forward with the case: in parallel, it announced today that a state investigative commission has opened a criminal case against META employees and META employees in Russia, to name but a few. laws on combating terrorism for as an “extremist organization” (characterized as “illegal calls for murder and violence against citizens of the Russian Federation”).

“These actions contain elements of a crime under Articles 280 and 205.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (public calls for extremist activities; aiding terrorist activities),” Russia’s investigative commission wrote about the policy change announced today. Calls for violence are possible.

“As part of the criminal case, the necessary investigative measures are being taken to legally assess the actions of Andy Stone and other employees of the American company,” the department added.

Russia has long had strict “anti-terrorism” laws that can target critics of the Putin regime to encourage self-censorship.

The 2016 update expanded the available penalties for “extremism” to the maximum penalty, a charge reported by The Guardian at the time that was increasingly being leveled against social media users who were critical of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. in prison, for example.

It now appears that Russia plans to indict US Stone and possibly other unnamed META employees for extremism.

It is clear that META employees located in Russia are most at risk of arrest and detention – Which again highlights the very real risks on the ground that can be associated with top-down centralized policy decisions by major global platforms.

Meta and Instagram have been contacted for comment on the latest developments.

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