Facebook Refuses Ukraine's Request To Shut Social Sites in Russia

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has announced it will not comply with Ukraine's suggestion to block Russians from accessing the social media site, as doing so would "silence important expression" amid the ongoing war.

Nick Clegg, vice president of Global Affairs and Communications at the company, confirmed on Sunday that it will not be blocking Russians using Facebook and Instagram.

In a series of tweets, Clegg explained the actions Facebook has taken to prevent misinformation from being spread during the conflict, but added Meta will not be removing access to Facebook and Instagram in Russia.

"People in Russia are using FB and IG to protest and organize against the war and as a source of independent information," Clegg said.

"The Russian Government is already throttling our platform to prevent these activities. We believe turning off our services would silence important expression at a crucial time."

Clegg did confirm that following discussions with the Ukrainian government, Meta has restricted access to several accounts in Ukraine, including those belonging to some Russian state media organizations.

The social media company said it is also reviewing other government requests to restrict Russian-state controlled media.

"In the meantime, we will continue to label and fact check these outlets as well as prohibit ads and demonetize their accounts globally," Clegg said.

Facebook did not specify which accounts have been restricted in Ukraine, nor which other governments have asked for restrictions on Russian state-backed media.

Newsweek has contacted Meta for further comment.

The statement from Clegg arrived after the Russian government partially blocked access to Facebook after it claimed the social network "restricted" the accounts of four Russian media outlets—the Zvezda TV channel, the RIA Novosti news agency and the Lenta.ru and Gazeta.ru websites.

Russia's communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, accused Facebook of violating "the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens," by censoring posts and claimed it had recorded 23 examples since October 2020.

In response, Clegg said that Meta had declined Russia's demands to "stop the independent fact-checking" of content posted by the four state-owned Russian media organizations.

"We refused," Clegg said. "As a result, they have announced they will be restricting the use of our services."

Twitter also confirmed that its service is being "restricted for some people in Russia" in the wake of the war with Ukraine.

NetBlocks, a watchdog that monitors internet usage, said there is an almost total restriction of Twitter usage in Russia.

NetBlocks Director Alp Toker told the BBC: "Russia's restriction of Twitter will significantly limit the free flow of information at a time of crisis when the public most need to stay informed."

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A man walks his dog in front of a damaged residential block hit by an early morning missile strike on February 25, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Chris McGrath/Getty Images