'Extremist organization': Is Russian court right about Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram?
- On March 21, 2022, a Russian court banned Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram as an “extremist organization” for making its work in Russia illegal. If the company is officially labeled as “extremist,” commercial activity and brand symbols will be outlawed.
- After Russian attacks on Ukraine, Meta allowed “some calls for violence” against Russians and Russian soldiers only in Ukraine as a temporary change to its content policy.
- Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, “unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks” with condemnation coming from the US, Europe, South Korea, Australia, and other countries.
- On October 28, 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp to “bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow business.”
Russia has good reason to ban Facebook and Instagram, calling their parent company, Meta, an 'extremist organization.' Since the evolution of Facebook, the company has always placed severe restrictions on what one can post on its platform. But the Russians have taken the first step by banning it altogether from its geographical borders. Facebook has been considered an extremist organization because it has permitted social media users in Ukraine to post violent messages against Russian President Putin and its military personnel for the past month. At the same time. Facebook has been erasing all posts by Russians about the war in Ukraine and not permitting them to post the same violent messages allowed to the Ukrainians.
The chief prosecutor in Moscow looked at the evidence presented and made an immediate ruling on the ban of Meta. Further, the Putin government has accused Facebook of spreading 'Russophobia' worldwide, including the US. Now that Facebook is facing a loss of revenue, it is back-tracking and claiming it only temporarily allowed for violence against Russians. What angered Moscow was that Meta allowed Hate speech to continue against Russians, something that was not allowed to be reciprocated. Anything negative the Russians said about the war was immediately deleted by Meta.
Facebook had already been blocked in Russia in early March after severely restricting pages belonging to state-funded Russian TV. The same type of discrimination, hate speech, or violence against another population would be considered a crime in America.
It is no secret Russia is trying to keep what it's doing in Ukraine off of social media. Since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the country has been restricting social media access in an attempt to keep up the illusion that the invasion is simply a training exercise and to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda. This new ban of Meta social spots, Facebook and Instagram, is a tactic Russia is using to prevent citizens from being able to get on social media and share the truth of what's happening in Ukraine and why.
Labeling Facebook and Instagram as 'extremist groups' makes no sense when the content being shared is the responsibility of users—not the parent company. And one of the factors the Russian court cited as justification for ruling the apps as 'extremist' is that Meta's apps are being used to call for violence. According to NPR, 'Russian prosecutors' [. . .] accused Instagram of serving as a platform for organizing 'riots, accompanied by violence.' However, Russia is currently engaging in a violent war that they started, so their real concern here clearly isn't preventing the spread of violence.
Meta clarified its regulations that Russia cited as the cause for the ban, saying, 'it does not permit any calls for violence, harassment or discrimination against Russian people.' In fact, Meta president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said about the company, 'our policies are focused on protecting people's rights to speech as an expression of self-defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country.' Meta is simply acting as a neutral platform and providing everyone with a platform on which to voice their opinions on Russia's attack on Ukraine.