Daily Column – 12th March 2022

The Kremlin has taken the step we’ve all thought about when our Stories don’t get enough attention: They’ve banned Instagram.

After Instagram made a few short-term changes to its policies on violent speech in some countries, Russia said it would block Instagram in the country beginning March 14. It’s the first time that Russia has said that Instagram is going to be a target for rules (the Kremlin already banned Facebook and Twitter in the country).

Instagram’s parent company, Meta, made a policy change that the Kremlin didn’t like. A company called Meta is letting people in Ukraine, Russia, Poland, and other eastern European countries use Facebook and Instagram to call for violence against Russian soldiers, Reuters says. Also, for now, posts that call for the deaths of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko can be made public.

It’s not Meta’s first policy change in response to Russia’s invasion. People could now praise Ukraine’s far-right military unit, the Azov Battalion, which had been banned under the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy until February.

Meta says that the temporary rule changes only apply to posts that target Russian soldiers (but not POWs) and where the context is clear that Russia has invaded Ukraine. People who care about human rights and the UN aren’t happy about the policy change, but Meta says it’s important to protect the free speech of Ukrainians.

We could now remove content from ordinary Ukrainians who are expressing their anger and resistance to the invading military forces if we didn’t make any changes to our content policies, which would be unacceptable. Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg tweeted Friday.

But Russia isn’t going to stop there: They’re not going to stop there.

Prosecutors in Russia have also asked a court to label Meta a “extremist organisation.” Instagram has about 63 million users in Russia.

Since recent years, Russia has added groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses, al-Qaeda, and the political movement of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny to its list of “extremists.”

Kremlin: Meta’s social messaging app, WhatsApp, will be allowed to stay unrestricted inside the country. This is a little weird. WhatsApp is very popular in Russia. There are 77 million people who use the service there.

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