On March 21, a Russian court banned Instagram and Facebook owned by Meta Platforms Inc. Their activities in Russia are recognized as extremist and banned, but their use is still possible, albeit with a number of restrictions. Liability may arise for advertising or payments to the sites, according to RBC.
Roskomnadzor and the Prosecutor General’s Office have asked to recognize Meta as an extremist organization. This was in response to the publication of an internal letter from the company, which stated that it was temporarily lifting the ban on its social networks for residents of a number of countries to post information calling for violence against Russian citizens, including the military. As a Meta spokesman later explained, they allowed calls for violence against the military, but intended to limit them to ordinary Russian citizens.
Facebook has been blocked in Russia since March 4, and Instagram since March 14.
The prosecutor who spoke in court about the recognition of Meta as an extremist organization said that the use of Facebook and Instagram by citizens and companies cannot be considered extremism. Russians will not be held accountable for using these platforms.
Maintaining your social media accounts, including VPN (virtual private network – a secure encrypted user connection to the network that allows you to connect to the necessary resources through an intermediate point in another country and protect traffic from analysis within the source country), will not fall under the signs of the activities of banned organizations in Russia, lawyers say. Of course, provided that user posts will not contain calls for extremistism.
However, the court said in a statement that its decision does not apply to the activities of the WhatsApp messenger, also owned by Meta, “due to the lack of functions for public dissemination of information.” Earlier, market participants began to notice failures in the work of WhatsApp and linked them to the blocking of Meta products in Russia, but a representative of Roskomnadzor denied such a connection.
Currently, Facebook and Instagram have stopped integrating and accepting payments in Russia, so it is almost impossible to pay for advertising. However, this is an important issue. After all, everything related to financing may fall under Article 282.3 of the Criminal Code “Financing of extremism”, which carries a penalty of up to eight years in prison. If a person buys Meta shares in another country and it becomes known to the authorities, the penalty may also be threatened. Risks remain for people with dual citizenship, experts say.
An explanation published by the Russian Electronic Communications Association (RAEC) states that, based on formal adherence to anti-extremist legislation, Meta may be held liable for work or services; order paid services, including advertising, and make any payments to the corporation; public display of her logo.
According to experts, the situation with the recognition of Meta’s social networks banned in connection with extremist activities is generally unprecedented, and it is not yet clear how to be the Russian media. Each company now decides how to deal with its own social media accounts and mentions of banned resources, but most will at least avoid using symbols and links on Facebook and Instagram, as these resources are now officially linked to extremist activities. Otherwise, market participants will focus on the comments of government officials and law enforcement practice.
In Primorye, for example, many officials, including Governor Oleg Kozhemyako, who currently has about 150,000 Instagram followers, have said they will stop posting on banned social media and responding to messages. They were followed by accounts of budgetary institutions and departments. However, there have been no examples of deleting accounts so far, that is, you can always return to their management painlessly.
While special notes, such as “the company is recognized as extremist in Russia”, the media should not do, but such a need may arise as soon as the court decision is published and the relevant entries are made in the state register of organizations. extremist activities. In this regard, a number of media outlets have already begun to preventively mark all mentions of Facebook, Instagram and Meta as banned, citing today’s court decision.
According to the press service of Roskomnadzor, according to the explanations of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the lawsuit is not aimed at restricting actions on the use of Meta software products by both individuals and legal entities that do not participate in illegal activities.
However, according to Art. 4 of the Law of the Russian Federation “On Mass Media” when disseminating information, the Russian media are obliged to label such an organization and its social networks in their editorial materials. The marking must indicate that its activities are prohibited in Russia. Responsibility for the media for the lack of such markings comes after the inclusion of an extremist organization in the relevant list, “said a spokesman for Roskomnadzor. Also, according to him, the Russian media is not allowed to demonstrate the logo of Meta Platforms Inc. and its social networks Facebook and Instagram.
The decision is for immediate execution, but Meta has a formal right to challenge it in the Moscow City Court’s appeal within 30 days.