On Mar 21st, Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court ruled that Meta is guilty of engaging in extremist activity, its Facebook and Instagram are “extremist organizations”, and banned from operating in Russian territory. This is the first time that the local government has used anti-extremism law against a foreign technology company.
The Russian Federal Security Service alleged in the court that Meta’s policies are directed against Russia and its army, urging the court to put a stop to Meta’s commercial activities with immediate effect. Nevertheless, Meta’s lawyer counters that the Moscow court does not have the jurisdiction to consider this case given that Meta is a foreign-registered company without a domestic presence. Finally, the court chooses to accept the charges filed by the prosecutors and officially blocking access to Facebook and Instagram across the country.
Since the invasion of Ukraine started, Russian authorities has banned Facebook on the grounds that it restricts users’ access to Russian state media outlets such as RT and Sputnik on its platforms. Shortly after Meta relaxed its content policy regarding hate speech, allowing users in 12 countries or regions including Ukraine to post violent remarks against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers, Instagram was banned as well. Subsequently, Meta revised its guideline, which prohibited users from posting contents threatening to assassinate a head of state.
As of now, Meta did not respond to the ruling and made no comments about whether it would appeal. However, the ruling did not affect its instant messenger WhatsApp for the time being.