Russian prosecutors have asked a court to ban Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook and Instagram as “extremist,” Interfax reported, the latest move in a growing crackdown on social networks.
Authorities blocked access to Facebook last week under a new media law, but the “extremist” designation, if approved by a court, would effectively criminalize all of Meta’s operations in Russia. The company’s Instagram app would also be blocked.
The move comes amid increasing tension between Moscow and U.S. tech companies. Earlier Friday, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, called on prosecutors to investigate Meta after Reuters reported that the company had temporarily eased internal restrictions on calling for violence against Russian soldiers due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia has already banned certain social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, while tech companies have demonetized Russian state-sponsored media and blocked them in Europe. Google’s YouTube video-sharing site on Friday expanded its suspension of Russia’s RT and Sputnik networks globally.
Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, defended the measures the company is taking, arguing they protect Ukrainians’ freedom of expression “in reaction to a military invasion of their country.”
“The fact is, if we applied our standard content policies without any adjustments we would now be removing content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces, which would rightly be viewed as unacceptable,” he wrote in a statement.
Clegg added that the company has “no quarrel with the Russian people.”
The company is prohibiting calls for violence against Russians outside of the narrow context of the current invasion, a Meta spokesperson said earlier.