Russian Court Bans Facebook and Instagram for ‘Extremist Activities’

Russian Court Bans Facebook and Instagram for ‘Extremist Activities’
Logos of social networks Facebook, Instagram, and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France, on Oct. 5 2020. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images)

A Russian court on Monday has banned Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, for alleged “extremist activities,” rendering its operations inside Russia illegal.

The decision handed down by Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court, however, excludes messaging service WhatsApp, which Meta also owns, according to the Interfax news agency.

“The court has granted the lawsuit filed by the first deputy prosecutor general of Russia against the holding company Meta Platforms Inc. seeking a ban on operations on the territory of Russia,” Judge Olga Solopova wrote on Monday, adding that Meta’s Facebook and Instagram are “banned on the grounds of extremist activities. The court decision is to be fulfilled immediately.”

But court’s “decision does not apply to the operations of Meta’s messenger WhatsApp due to its absence of functions for public information dissemination,” a judge said.

Meta’s lawyer Victoria Shakina had earlier told the court that the company was not carrying out extremist activities and was against Russophobia, Interfax reported.

Russian regulators earlier this month blocked Facebook, Twitter, and several other social media websites, alleging discrimination against Russian media outlets since October 2020. Facebook had restricted access to Russian outlets including Russia Today (RT), Sputnik News, Lenta, Gazeta, RIA Novosti, and the Zvezda TV channel, according to Russia’s Roskomnadzor.

Last week, Roskomnadzor also demanded that Google stop spreading what it described as threats against Russians on YouTube.

But Russian prosecutors opened an investigation into Facebook after it said would allow social media users in Ukraine to post messages on Facebook and Instagram urging violence against Russian President Vladimir Putin and troops that Moscow sent into Ukraine starting on Feb. 24.

Meta has since updated its guidance to prohibit calls for the death of a head of state and said its guidance should never be interpreted as condoning violence against Russians in general.

Human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov suggested that individuals who publicly display Facebook, Instagram, or Meta symbols on websites, business entrances, or business cards could face punitive action.

“Instagram and Facebook logos will also not be allowed to be used after Meta [was] included in the register of extremist organizations,” he wrote, adding that purchasing advertising on Facebook or Instagram could be viewed under Russian law as funding extremists.

Sarkis Darbinyan, the managing partner at the DRC law firm, made a similar statement to Interfax, noting that “acquisitions of this company’s shares will probably be qualified as the financing of extremist activity.”

“The law has no retroactive force, it cannot be applied to all deals. Therefore, it will not apply to those who bought these shares before the court issued its ruling,” Darbinyan added.

Meta did not respond to requests for comment after the court issued its decision. It’s not clear if the company will appeal the decision.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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