Russia Has Blocked Access to Facebook And Twitter

Russia Has Blocked Access to Facebook And Twitter

In light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s escalating military invasion of Ukraine, Facebook and Twitter were blocked in Russia on Friday.

The country’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, noted in a statement that the decision to “ban access to the Facebook network” was reached following at least 26 instances of “discrimination against Russian media and information resources” since October 2020. The agency drew attention to Facebook’s recent blocking of Kremlin-affiliated media outlets RT and Sputnik in the EU.

In reaction, Nick Clegg, president of worldwide affairs for Meta, the parent company of Facebook, commented on Twitter: “Soon millions of regular Russians will find themselves blocked from speaking out, deprived of their daily ways of connecting with family and friends.” “We’ll keep doing everything we can to get our services back online so people can continue to express themselves and band together for action in a safe and secure manner,” the statement reads.

A few hours later, the Russian news agency Interfax claimed that Twitter had also started to be blocked by Roskomnadzor. According to a Twitter spokeswoman, the business hasn’t noticed “something significantly different” from the throttling that had been previously reported, despite the reports.

The blocks would escalate earlier restrictions on Facebook and Twitter by the Kremlin. Last week, Clegg said Russia had restricted the use of the company’s services. The throttling was in 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 data from global internet monitor NetBlocks revealed the platform was being restricted across a handful of Russian telecommunications service providers. At the time, Twitter said it was aware of the restriction and said it was “working to keep [its] service safe and accessible.”

On Thursday, Russian-language Twitter users began commenting that Facebook, along with the BBC and independent Russian news outlet Meduza, were blocked in Russia.

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However, data from GlobalCheck, a service that tracks internet censorship in countries like Russia and Belarus, showed that Russia was throttling Facebook. User connections to Facebook in Russia bottomed out at 25% that day, the most throttled the platform had been since the start of the invasion last month.

“​​This is the exact ambiguity that throttling and partial restrictions aim to create,” NetBlocks told BuzzFeed News on Thursday. “There’s no clear point at which the slowing of a website or social media platform renders it unusable. And in this regard, the act of throttling becomes an information warfare tool in and of itself.”

Throttling has lately been used by the Russian government as a method of internet platform censorship. During the anti-Putin riots last year, Roskomnadzor introduced a cutting-edge method that successfully blocked access to Twitter. Prior to that, Roskomnadzor declared that it had restricted Twitter’s service speeds because it thought the firm had neglected to delete content about drugs, suicide, and child pornography. This was the “first documented centrally coordinated attempt by the Russian government to use throttling (instead of outright blocking),” according to research organization Censored Planet at the time.

Silicon Valley businesses are at the center of Russia’s ongoing attack. Over the weekend, Facebook and Twitter claimed to have taken down two anti-Ukrainian misinformation operations. Kremlin-backed media outlets RT and Sputnik have also been removed from Google-owned services Meta, TikTok, and YouTube in Europe. Users are not permitted to post links to Russian state-owned media on Reddit. Outside of Russia, Apple and Google have also taken RT off of their app stores.

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