A Moscow court has banned Facebook and Instagram nationwide. The two social networks had already been inaccessible for several weeks, but the decision still brings new elements to the file.
” We accede to the request of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to prohibit the activities of the company Meta “. A Moscow court ruled on March 21, 2022 to ban Facebook and Instagram, two of Meta’s main social networks, AFP reported.
Both sites were already banned in Russia: Facebook had been banned since March 5 and Instagram had been inaccessible since March 14. But this new decision is not so trivial. It concerns the entire Meta group, and not just the two social networks. The reason for the ban is also different: the group is banned for ” extremism “.
What does this change?
For now, the court decision does not change the current situation: the two networks are still banned. AFP, however, clarified that “ the messaging application WhatsApp, also owned by Meta, is not affected by this measure », which would have been an important novelty: 67 million Russians use the app. Nothing says however that this authorization for WhatsApp will last, because it is indeed the whole group which has been declared ” extremist “. Likewise, nothing has been announced for Occulus, another Meta-owned company.
Facebook and Instagram had previously been banned for discrimination, including the fact that Facebook lets some of its users insult Russian soldiers. The fact that they are now because of ” extremism isn’t expected to change much immediately, but may eventually have more significant consequences.
Vladimir Putin enacted a law in June 2021 prohibiting people with connections to extremist groups from being elected. Facebook and Instagram are used by millions of people in Russia. Strictly applied, this law could perhaps, in fact, prevent all potential candidates who once had a Facebook account from being elected one day. If all the people who once had a Facebook account can be considered ” extremists », the implication would be enormous and the consequences disastrous.
The term ” extremist is in any case itself very broad: it refers to a law passed in 2007, officially for fight against political extremism “. The latter imposes very severe penalties on anyone convicted of crimes committed for “motives of political and ideological hatred with prison terms of up to 12 years. This law also allows law enforcement to listen to the telephone conversations of people suspected of crimes, ” no matter how serious wrote Le Monde in 2007. Potentially, the millions of Russian Instagram or Facebook users in the country could be affected by his tapping.