Russian court denies Meta appeal over 'extremist activity' tag
Critics have called the move an attempt to stifle information flow
WhatsApp access was left unchanged, causing confusion
Earlier, Ukrainian users would post calls to violence against Russia on Instagram
A Moscow court rejected an appeal by the tech giant Meta after the company was found guilty of "terrorist activity," the TASS Russian News Agency reported on Monday.
Earlier this year, Russia restricted access to Facebook and Instagram, and eventually Twitter in the aftermath of the troops that it sent to into Ukraine in February. Critics have called Russia's actions an effort by the country an attempt to control information flow within its territory, according to a Reuters report.
In March, soon after the restrictions were announced, the Russian government said that the ruling would not affect Meta’s flagship messaging service WhatsApp, despite that some were left confused about why the messenger was still available and working. That same month, Meta’s lawyer Victoria Shakina told the court that the company was not carrying out any terrorist activities and was against Russophobia, Reuters reported.
Initially, the Russian government had placed a ban on Facebook for restricting access to Russian media. Similarly, Instagram was targeted after Meta permitted Ukrainian users to create posts calling for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meta later changed its policy and prohibited calls for the deaths of a head of state, claiming that none of its principles were to be interpreted as condoning violence against Russian people, according to the Reuters report.
In other news, the Russian government has opposed the treatment of foreign news agencies, particularly for the label of being “state-controlled.” Roskomnadz, the Russia state communications regulator, has previously fined companies for failing to delete content the nation believes is illegal.
Earlier this week, a lawyer representing Meta said that refusing to block content access and identifying state-controlled media were not qualifications for being identified as extremist, according to a Kommersant reporter who was in the courtroom.
This comes at a time when the Russia-Ukraine war continues to rage, even as Western countries continue to pledge support to the country often called the breadbasket of Europe.