A Moscow court ruled in favor this month of Russia’s banning of Facebook and Instagram, two companies under the Meta umbrella, due to the platforms’ allowing their users to employ “extremist, anti-Russian” language. Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine commenced, Meta said that it would temporarily allow for “political expression,” which included calls for the death of Putin as well as Russian troops in Ukraine, on its platforms, according to Reuters. Though Meta has since changed its tone and prohibited calls for Putin’s death, the company has some work to do if it is to gain Russia’s trust again.
Anton Gorelkin, a member of Russia’s State Duma committee on information and communication, said that the Russian market could open to Meta again, but on the Russian government’s terms, according to Reuters. On Telegram, an app that has gained popularity in the wake of Russians’ losing access to Facebook and Instagram, Gorelkin said that such terms would include Meta’s having to strictly moderate any anti-Russian comments.
In the meantime, Russia will not only continue to ban its 7.5 million Facebook users and 80 million Instagram users, but it will penalize companies that display Meta’s logo on their websites or shops entrances, according to an announcement from Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal service for supervision of communications, information technology, and mass media. Those who break the rule could face administrative charges or up to 15 days in jail.
WhatsApp, another Meta company, will not be affected by the court ruling. It may have been spared because 67 million Russians, including members of government agencies and state companies, use the app for everyday communication and customer support, said Sarkis Darbinyan, head of the legal department at digital rights group Roskomsvoboda.
“The [Russian] government is trying not to close everything at once, ” Darbinyan said. It wants Russian citizens to get used to the changes, according to Reuters. Russians will have little choice but to get used to these changes so long as Meta finds itself in the company of the Taliban and the Islamic State, two other groups that the Russian government has also labeled "extremist.”