Facebook and Twitter were blocked in Russia on Friday, amid President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing military invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement released on FridayRoskomnadzor, the country’s communications regulator, said the decision was made to “block access to the Facebook network” after at least 26 cases of “discrimination against Russian media and information resources” since October 2020. The agency highlighted the recent restriction media sources linked to the Kremlin, RT and Sputnik, across the EU.
“Soon, millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their daily means of connecting with family and friends, and prevented from speaking up,” wrote Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, Facebook’s parent company. on Twitter in response. “We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they remain available for people to speak out safely and organize for action.”
A few hours later, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that Roskomnadzor had also started blocking Twitter. Despite the reports, a Twitter spokesperson said the company sees “nothing significantly different” from the limitation that was previously reported.
The blockages would worsen previous restrictions on Facebook and Twitter by the Kremlin. Last week, Clegg said Russia had restricted the use of the company’s services. The strangulation was a response to Meta’s refusal to stop independent fact-checking of Russian state-backed media. Clegg in turn said Meta would keep its apps, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, available to Russians.
The Russian government also began throttling Twitter last week, and NetBlocks Global Internet Monitor data revealed that the platform was restricted to a handful of Russian telecom service providers. At the time, Twitter said he was aware of the restriction and said he was “working to keep [its] safe and accessible service.
However, data from GlobalCheck, a service that tracks internet censorship in countries like Russia and Belarus, showed that Russia was restricting Facebook. User logins to Facebook in Russia have hit an all-time low 25% that daythe most throttled platform since the invasion began last month.
“That’s the exact ambiguity that the partial throttling and restrictions aim to create,” NetBlocks told BuzzFeed News on Thursday. “There is no clear point at which a slowing down website or social media platform renders it unusable. And in this regard, the act of limitation becomes an information warfare tool in itself.
The Russian government has recently relied on the limitation to censor internet platforms. Last year, Roskomnadzor launched a new technique that effectively restricted access to Twitter during anti-Putin protests. Before that, Roskomnadzor announcement that he slowed down the speed of the Twitter service because he claimed the company failed to remove content related to child pornography, drugs and suicide. At the time, the Censored Planet research group called it “the first known attempt under central Russian government control to use throttling (instead of outright blocking).”
As Russia continues its invasion, Silicon Valley companies have been caught in the middle. Facebook and Twitter said they removed two anti-Ukrainian misinformation campaigns over the weekend. Google-owned Meta, TikTok and YouTube have also banned Kremlin-backed outlets RT and Sputnik from their platforms in Europe. Reddit has banned users to post links to Russian state media. Apple and Google have also removed RT from their app stores outside of Russia.