Russia has officially designated American Big Tech company, Meta, an “extremist” organization after also banning its biggest platforms, Facebook and Instagram, over “terrorism.”
The regime of Russian leader Vladimir Putin typically uses accusations of “terrorism” for any criticism or opposition to the government. Its opposition crackdown has increased dramatically since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Facebook and Instagram’s bans went into effect several months ago. Still, as of October 11, their parent company Meta was officially added to the Russian extremism list for “engaging” in “terrorist” and “extremist” activities.
Meta’s platforms Facebook and Instagram were blocked in Russia by a Moscow court in March, weeks after the launch of Putin’s Ukraine invasion.
At the time, Russian officials accused Facebook and Instagram of “Russophobia,” i.e., hatred of Russia, as people worldwide used social media to explode with outrage over Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
“The legal situation has not changed in any way since the court banned Meta products,” said Russian Senator Andrei Klishas regarding the new designation of Meta, as cited by Fox News.
Russian prosecutors have already started to warn citizens using Facebook and Instagram that they would face administrative or criminal liability.
The designation of Meta as an “extremist” organization allows the Russian authorities to freeze any bank account in the country that may provide funding to it, for instance, in advertising payments.
Besides that, the Russian government can now legally imprison any Russian citizen or fine any company buying ads on Meta’s platforms. Citizens are thus threatened with a prison sentence of up to 10 years for “sponsoring terrorism.”
As of March, the Russian service of the BBC said its news site had seen its traffic triple as the Putin regime started to persecute all independent or opposition-minded news outlets in the country.
According to author Rebekah Koffler, a former officer of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Meta’s designation on Russia’s extremism list is a new measure by Putin to “tighten government control over information flow.”
“Shortly after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government banned Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other Western social media because they provided information about the war that contradicted the disinformation campaign conducted by the Kremlin,” she said.
“Some people used VPN to bypass the ban, so this latest move targets these ‘violators,’” Koffler added.
“[Russian law defines] extremist activity very broadly, making it a crime to criticize government officials and policy, using language such as ‘diminishing national dignity’ and ‘publicly expressing slander’ as examples of such’ crimes,’” the author explained.
Russia officially calls Meta 'extremist,' extends bans on platforms Facebook, Instagram for 'terrorism' https://t.co/N68ObkHgxm
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 12, 2022