Russia’s communications regulator said it has blocked Facebook from Meta Platforms Inc in response to what it said were restrictions on access to Russian media on its platform, more than a week after Moscow invaded its neighbor Ukraine.
The regulator, Roskomnadzor, said Friday that there had been 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media by Facebook since October 2020, with access limited to state-backed channels like RT and the RIA news agency.
The company said this week that it had restricted access to RT and Sputnik across the European Union and was downgrading content on Facebook pages and Instagram accounts of Russian state-controlled outlets globally, as well as posts containing links to those outlets on Facebook.
Last week, Moscow said it was partially restricting access to Facebook, a move the company said came after it refused a government request to stop independent fact-checking of several Russian state media outlets.
Meanwhile, the Tass news agency reported Friday that Russia had restricted access to Twitter. The Interfax news agency said earlier that the service had been blocked.
Twitter Inc did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meta’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said the company would continue to do everything possible to restore its services.
“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 expressing themselves,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Major technology and social media companies have been under pressure to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, which led to economic sanctions against Moscow by governments around the world. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation.”
Roskomnadzor said Meta had restricted access to the accounts of state-backed media outlets in recent days, citing RT, Sputnik, the RIA news agency, the Defense Ministry’s Zvezda TV and the websites gazeta.ru and lenta.ru.
He said the restrictions violated key principles of freedom of information and unhindered access to Russian media for Russian Internet users.
An AFP news agency reporter in Moscow confirmed that Facebook was not working, but Facebook-owned Instagram was still accessible.
The decision comes amid an unprecedented government crackdown on independent media and activists since the start of the Russian invasion.