21 Mar 2022 17:12

Meta's social networks Facebook, Instagram banned in Russia for extremist activities - court

MOSCOW. March 21 (Interfax) - Moscow's Tverskoi District Court has granted the Russian Prosecutor General's Office's lawsuit seeking a ban in the country on the operations of the company Meta Platforms Inc. for refusing to delete calls for violence against Russians, including troops, an Interfax correspondent reported from the courtroom.

"The court has granted the lawsuit filed by the first deputy prosecutor general of Russia against the holding company Meta Platforms Inc. seeking a ban on operations on the territory of Russia. The operations of the U.S. transnational holding company Meta Platforms Inc. to sell products, the social networks Facebook and Instagram, on the territory of Russia, is banned on the grounds of extremist activities. The court decision is to be fulfilled immediately," Judge Olga Solopova said in her decision on Monday.

The ban on Meta operations does not apply to the messenger WhatsApp.

"This decision does not apply to the operations of Meta's messenger WhatsApp due to its absence of functions for public information dissemination," the judge said.

The Prosecutor General's Office also said the use of these social networks "by third persons for purposes other than the commission of extremist or terrorist actions should not be regarded as participation by individuals or legal entities in extremist activities."

Meta's lawyers had insisted in court that the agency's lawsuit was illegal and unfounded. The company denied having conducted extremist activities. Company representatives said Meta is against both Russophobia and calls for violence.

Roskomnadzor and Federal Security Service officials had backed the Prosecutor General's Office's claim in court.

Meta owns the social networks Facebook and Instagram and the messengers WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Earlier reports stated that Facebook and Instagram would temporarily allow users in some countries to call for violence against Russian troops.

On March 14, Russia's telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor officially included Instagram in the register of prohibited sites and blocked the social network on the demand of the Prosecutor General's Office. User-access to Facebook was earlier restricted as well.

Meta Vice President Nick Clegg later said the company would not tolerate any forms of discrimination, Russophobia or calls for violence against Russians and that the new moderation policies on Facebook and Instagram were temporary and would only be used on the territory of Ukraine.