Social networks are playing a very important role in the current context of war between Russia and Ukraine: either to learn first-hand about the situation at the front and in the occupied cities, or to spread hoaxes… Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok and the other platforms play a fundamental role in shaping the position of global public opinion.
For this reason, Moscow today announced the "partial" limitation of access to Facebook, owned by the American Meta and the largest social network in the world, although it has not given any clues about the scope of said limitation:
"According to the decision of the General Prosecutor's Office, from February 25, Roskomnadzor will impose partial restrictions on access to the social network Facebook."
The reason for this restriction, as stated by the Russian state communications regulator (Roskomnadzor), is that those responsible for Facebook would have ignored their request to stop 'censoring' four Russian media on their platform: the RIA news agency, Zvezda TV (owned by the Russian Ministry of Defense) and the gazeta.ru and slow.ru websites.
Meta's head of global affairs (and former British deputy prime minister) Nick Clegg explained on Twitter:
Ordinary Russians are using @Meta's apps to express themselves and organize for action. We want them to continue to make their voices heard, share what's happening, and organize through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. pic.twitter.com/FjTovgslCe
— Nick Clegg February 25, 2022
"Yesterday, the Russian authorities ordered us to stop applying independent fact-checking and content labeling to news published by four Russian state media outlets. We refused and as a result, they have announced that they will restrict the use of our services".
Russia has long maintained a 'tug of war' with various online platforms that do not accept its policies of 'technological sovereignty' with regard to the Internet: it has already sanctioned Facebook in the last two years both for an apparent 'slowness' to when responding to requests to remove illegal content, such as refusing to store Russian user data on servers located in Russia itself.
Facebook 'raises its hand' with posts supporting an anti-Russian 'dangerous organization'
In any case, not only the top officials of the Moscow government seem to be unhappy with Facebook: a recent change in Facebook's policy has also caused outrage among Russian Internet users: from now on, it will allow the network's millions of users publish praise and support for the Ukrainian organization known as the Azov Battalion.
This paramilitary movement of neo-Nazi affiliation, integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine, had been accused in 2016 of committing rape and torture against pro-Russian civilians in Donbass two years earlier in a report (PDF) by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights.
Then, in 2019, Facebook added the Azov Battalion to its Dangerous Organizations and Individuals registry, along with the Islamic State and the Ku Kux Klan… but now Facebook has decided to partially reverse that decision, a company spokesperson told The Intercept. :
"At the moment, we are making a small exception to allow the Azov Regiment to be commended strictly in the context of the defense of Ukraine, or in its role as part of the National Guard of Ukraine."
"But we continue to ban all hate speech, hate symbolism, praise of violence, generic praise, support or representation of the Azov Regiment and any other content that violates our community standards."