Social networks are playing a very important role in the current context of war between Russia and Ukraine: either to learn first-hand about the situation at the front and in the occupied cities, either to spread hoaxes… Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok and the other platforms play a fundamental role in shaping global public opinion.
For this reason, Moscow today announced the “partial” limitation of access to Facebook, owned by the American Meta and the largest social network in the world, although it has not given any clues about the scope of said limitation:
“According to the decision of the General Prosecutor’s Office, as of February 25, Roskomnadzor will impose partial restrictions on access to the Facebook social network.”
The reason for this restriction, as stated by the Russian state communications regulator (Roskomnadzor), is that those responsible for Facebook would have ignored their request to stop ‘censoring’ in its platform to four Russian medias: the RIA news agency, Zvezda TV (owned by the Russian Ministry of Defense) and the gazeta.ru and slow.ru websites.
The head of global affairs for Meta (and former British deputy prime minister) Nick Clegg, has explained this on Twitter:
“Yesterday, the Russian authorities ordered us to stop applying independent fact-checking and content labeling to news published by four Russian state media outlets. We refused, and as a result they have announced that they will restrict the use of our services”.
Russia has long maintained a ‘tug of war’ with various online platforms that do not accept its policies of ‘technological sovereignty’ with regard to the Internet: it has already sanctioned in the last two years to Facebook both for an apparent ‘slowness’ in responding to requests to delete illegal content, and for refusing to store the data of Russian users on servers located in Russia itself.
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Facebook ‘raises its hand’ with posts supporting an anti-Russian ‘dangerous organization’
However, it’s not only Moscow’s top government officials who seem unhappy with Facebook: Russian netizens have also been outraged by a recent change in Facebook’s policy: from now on, it will allow users to Millions of web users post praise and support for the Ukrainian organization known as the Azov Battalion.
This paramilitary movement of neo-Nazi affiliation, integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine, had been accused in 2016 of committing rape and torture against pro-Russian civilians in Donbass two years earlier in a report (PDF) by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Then, in 2019, Facebook introduced the Azov Battalion in its registry of Dangerous Organizations and Individuals, along with the Islamic State and the Ku Kux Klan… but now Facebook has decided to partially reverse that decision, according to A company spokesperson explained to The Intercept:
“At the moment, we are making a small exception to allow commendation of the Azov Regiment strictly in the context of the defense of Ukraine, or in its role as part of the National Guard of Ukraine.”
“But we continue to ban all hate speech, hate symbolism, praise of violence, generic praise, support or representation of the Azov Regiment and any other content that violates our community standards.”