A Russian court has banned Facebook and Instagram after labelling their parent company Meta as an “extremist organization,” according to state-run RIA Novosti.
The move comes after Russia’s attorney general’s office appealed to a Moscow court to designate Meta as an “extremist group,” as it allowed users in some countries to call on President Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers involved in the country’s invasion of Ukraine Take violent action. WhatsApp, also owned by Meta, is not covered by the ban.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Individuals will not face criminal charges for using Facebook or Instagram. “The use of Meta’s products by individuals and legal entities should not be considered as engaging in extremist activities,” a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told state media TASS. “Individuals are not responsible for using Meta’s services.”
Russian human rights group Net Freedoms Project also quoted prosecutors as saying on its Telegram channel that paying for ads on Instagram and Facebook could now be seen as funding an extremist group. It said any individual, business or website with links to Facebook and Instagram, as well as anyone with a business card displaying the app’s logo, could face felony charges. “This is a public display of an extremist group’s logo,” the group said.
The ruling will allow Roskomnadzor, the Russian government’s media watchdog, to immediately block Meta’s social network and close related offices in Russia.
Russia blocked access to Facebook earlier this month. A week later, Roskomnadzor announced it would block Instagram in response to Meta’s announcement that it would allow Ukrainian Facebook and Instagram users to post “forms of political expression” that typically violate the company’s rules against violent speech, such as “execute the Russian invaders.”
Russian prosecutors believe that “extremist messages” spread on Facebook and Instagram “threaten individuals and society as a whole, and that the company violated its own rules by allowing calls to murder Russian troops,” RIA Novosti wrote.
In February, Meta blocked Russian state media RT and Sputnik from EU access. Other U.S. tech companies, including Google and Apple, also responded to the intrusion by blocking access to Russian state media.