21 Mar 2022 13:04

Court rejects Meta's request for time to prepare defense against lawsuit that seeks to ban it in Russia

MOSCOW. March 21 (Interfax) - Moscow's Tverskoi District Court has dismissed the motion from the attorneys of Meta Platforms Inc, who asked to defer the hearing of a lawsuit filed by the Russian Prosecutor General's Office that seeks a ban on the company's operations due to Meta's refusal to delete calls for violence against Russians, an Interfax correspondent reported from the courtroom.

"The motion of the defense asking to postpone the court session shall not be granted," Judge Olga Solopova said in court on Monday.

The Russian court refused to give Meta more time to prepare for the hearing on case merits. The court did not grant the company's motion to close the case either.

A representative of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said in court that if it rules to ban the operations of Meta Platforms Inc in Russia, the ruling must be reinforced immediately.

"The activity of the Meta organization is directed against Russia and its Armed Forces. We ask that Meta's activities be banned and that this decision be enforced immediately," FSB representative Igor Kovalevsky said in court.

Meanwhile, a Prosecutor General's Office official said the agency was not seeking a ban on the operation of WhatsApp in Russia and only insisted on a ban on Facebook and Instagram.

"We back the claims seeking a ban on operations and sale of products, namely the social networks Facebook and Instagram on the grounds of extremist activities on the territory of Russia, such measures are not being taken against WhatsApp," the official said in court.

At the same time, the supervisory agency said the use of these social networks should not be regarded as participation in extremist activities.

"The use of these software products by third persons, not for purposes of committing extremist or terrorist actions, should not be regarded as participation by individuals or legal entities in the extremist activities of the Meta company," the prosecutor said.

Russia's telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor has backed the Russian Prosecutor General's Office's claim in court seeking a ban of Meta in Russia.

"We find the demands of the first deputy prosecutor general lawful and founded," a Roskomnadzor official said at a hearing in Moscow's Tverskoi District Court.

Meta owns the information resources Facebook and Instagram, and it has more than once been subjected to administrative liability in connection with dissemination on social networks of extremist information and other prohibited information, she said.

"We believe that the company's operations are subject to a ban in connection with the engagement by it in extremist activities," the Roskomnadzor official said.

In her turn, a Meta representative, lawyer Viktoriya Shagina said in court that their platform has not been engaged in any extremist activities or changed its attitude toward posts and comments in social media containing calls for violence.

"Meta has not conducted and is not conducting any extremist activities [...]. The company stands against Russophobia,"Shagina said.

"Meta has amended its policies following public debate and says that Russophobia and calls for violence against Russian citizens are unacceptable," the company lawyer said.