One week after imposing a ban on Facebook in Russia, the country’s communications agency Roskomnadzor stated that it will also impose a ban on Instagram. While the Facebook ban was based on « discrimination against Russian media, » the government alleges that this time it is due to a decision by parent company Meta directing moderators to allow messages calling for violence against Russian military if they originate in specified countries, including Ukraine.
In a tweet, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri stated, « This decision would cut 80 million people in Russia off from one another, and from the rest of the globe, as 80% of users in Russia follow an Instagram account outside their country. » This is incorrect. »
On Monday, Instagram will be blocked in Russia. This decision will cut 80 million in Russia off from one another, and from the rest of the world as ~80% of people in Russia follow an Instagram account outside their country. This is wrong.
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) March 11, 2022
The agency’s statement, as translated by Google from Russian, reads as follows:
As you know, on March 11, Meta Platforms Inc. made an unprecedented decision by allowing the posting of information containing calls for violence against Russian citizens on its social networks Facebook and Instagram.
Messages are circulating on the Instagram social network encouraging and provoking violent acts against Russians, in connection with which the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office demanded that Roskomnadzor restrict access to this social network.
Since it will take time for active Instagram users to transfer their photo and video materials to other social networks and notify their contacts and subscribers, Roskomnadzor decided to complete the procedure for imposing restrictions on access to Instagram at 00:00 on March 14, providing users with an additional 48 hours of transition period.
The government’s decision makes no mention of Russian oligarchs using Instagram to protest the invasion. This includes the daughters of billionaires who have become influencers with enormous followings, such as Sofia Abramovich, daughter of billionaire Roman Abramovich, who apparently retweeted a message claiming, « the largest and most effective lie of Kremlin propaganda is that most Russians side with Putin. » Banker Oleg Tinkov, who was once the 15th wealthiest person in Russia, is one of the most vocal opponents, writing on Facebook, « We are against this war! »
Concerning Meta’s « unique » action in content moderation, a Vice story last summer mentioned a similar decision to temporarily allow content including « death to Khamenei » shouts and shouting that went up during a period of protests in the country’s southwest region of Khuzestan.
The prohibition comes just a few days after Meta announced plans for Instagram to designate state media stations and that it is « hiding information about people’s followers, who they’re following, and those who are following each other for private accounts based in these two nations » in Russia and Ukraine.
The restriction will not go into force until March 14th, according to Russian state-owned media source RIA Novosti, and it will not apply to WhatsApp, which is also owned by Meta. Earlier in the day, Russian government officials threatened a ban, asking that Meta confirm or dispute the Reuters-reported information.
« As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we have temporarily created exemptions for types of political expression that would normally breach our standards, such as aggressive statements such as ‘death to the Russian invaders,' » stated Meta spokesperson Andy Stone last night. « We will continue to reject credible demands for violence against Russian civilians. »
In a statement issued Friday, Meta’s president of worldwide relations, Nick Clegg, stated that the company’s principles were « centered on preserving people’s right to speech as an expression of self-defense in response to a military invasion of their nation. » Clegg stated that if Meta/Instagram continued with its current methods, « we would now be eliminating content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their opposition and indignation » at the Russian invasion, « which would rightfully be seen as reprehensible. »
Clegg stated that the temporary restriction will only apply within Ukraine. « We have no beef with the Russian people, » he stated, adding that « we will not accept Russophobia or any other type of discrimination, harassment, or violence towards Russians on our platform. »
Update March 11th 2:30PM ET: Added statement from Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg
Update March 11th 7PM ET: Added statement from Instagram head Adam Mosseri.