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Russia expands social media crackdown by blocking Instagram

(AP) — Russian regulators said Friday that internet users in the country would not be allowed to access Instagram, saying it was used to call for violence against Russian soldiers.

In Moscow’s latest move to restrict access to foreign social media platforms, communications and media regulator Roskomnadzor said in a statement it was restricting domestic access to Instagram. He said the platform broadcast “calls to commit acts of violence against Russian citizens, including military personnel.”

Roskomnadzor quoted a tweet Thursday from Meta spokesperson Andy Stone, conveying a statement from the company saying it had “cleared the air for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules on violent speech, as “death to the Russian invaders””.

Stone’s statement followed a Reuters report that Meta was making a temporary change to its hate speech policy to allow Facebook and Instagram users in certain countries to call for violence against Russians and soldiers. Russians in the context of the invasion of Ukraine.

The statement stresses that the company “still will not allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.”

Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms, which also owns Instagram, on Friday defended what it described as a temporary decision “made under extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances.”

“I want to be perfectly clear: our policies are focused on protecting people’s right to free speech as an expression of self-defense in response to a military invasion of their country,” said a statement from President Nick Clegg on Friday. of Meta’s global business.

“The point is that if we were to apply our standard content policies without any adjustments, we would now remove content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury against invading military forces, which would rightly be considered unacceptable,” added Clegg.

He noted that the policy only applies in Ukraine and that the company has not changed its policies against hate speech targeting Russians.

Russia has already blocked access to Facebook, limited access to Twitter and criminalized the intentional dissemination of what Moscow considers to be “false” reports, as part of President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on social media and social networks. news outlets like the BBC.

Big tech companies, meanwhile, have moved to block Russian state media from using their platforms to spread propaganda and disinformation.

YouTube said on Friday it was blocking global access to channels associated with Russian state-funded media. It used to block them – especially RT and Sputnik – across Europe.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, announced the move in a Twitter post, saying that while the change will be effective immediately, it would take time for systems to ramp up. He said he was also removing content about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that “downplays or trivializes well-documented violent events.”

The Kremlin calls the invasion a “special military operation” and not a war. YouTube previously suspended YouTube ads in Russia. Now he’s extending that to all the ways he makes money on the platform in Russia.

Meta also banned Russian state media from using Instagram and Facebook.