August 18, 2022

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In Russia, the country’s communications authority has blocked Facebook and Twitter due to concerns over the Ukraine conflict.

Roskomnadzor stated that its judgment on Facebook was based on what it felt was limited access to Russian media on the network.

Since October 2020, Facebook has discriminated against Russian media in 26 cases, according to the regulator, with access blocked to state-backed news outlets such as RT, Sputnik, RIA, the defense ministry’s Zvezda TV, and websites gazeta.ru and lenta.ru.

Following a decision by the Russian prosecutor general’s office, Roskomnadzor claimed it had also blocked access to Twitter.

The watchdog has already accused the site of failing to remove content that Russian authorities have declared illegal.

Reacting to the Russian decision over Facebook, the US said it was “deeply concerned” by the move, saying it was part of broader attempts to prevent its citizens getting information.

“This is part of their effort…to cut off a range of information from their public,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

“We are deeply concerned about this and concerned about the threat on freedom of speech in the country.”

Meta runs Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Meta’s president of global affairs, Sir Nick Clegg, said the company would continue to do everything it could to restore its services.

Reacting to the regulator’s decision, he tweeted: “Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out.

“We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organise for action.”

It comes as Russia tries to stifle information on the invasion of Ukraine by going after independent news outlets. It comes after the BBC, the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and Latvia-based website Meduza were all blocked earlier on Friday.

Last Friday, Moscow said that it was restricting access to Facebook in part, citing the company’s refusal to comply with a government order to suspend independent fact-checking by various Russian state media sites.

By Saturday, Twitter had also announced that some Russian users will be unable to use the service.

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