Russia Blocks Facebook, Twitter Amid Crackdown on What It Calls Dissent

People in Russia can no longer access Facebook or Twitter after the government blocked access to the sites in an attempt to reduce dissent during the war in Ukraine.

Russian agency Roskomnadzor said it halted access to Facebook because it had engaged in "discrimination" against Russian news media. The government claimed there were 26 cases of reported "discrimination" made against Russian media by the social media platform.

The move against Facebook and Twitter follows other restrictions Russia has enacted against foreign news organizations. The government previously restricted access to the BBC and Deutsche Welle for allegedly spreading false information about the war in Ukraine. The United States accused Russia of launching a "full war on media and the truth" for blocking access to independent news outlets, according to Reuters.

"Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out," Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg tweeted in response to the news on Friday.

"We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organize for action," he said.

Meta previously announced it was restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU. The company said it was demoting content on Instagram and Facebook from Russian state-controlled media outlets and making it harder for people to find the information. Roskomnadzor said the restrictions introduced by Meta violated the law.

The agency took additional steps in restricting social media after announcing it has begun blocking Twitter access in Russia, according to journalist Ilya Varlamov's Twitter post. Twitter said on Saturday it was "aware that Twitter is being restricted for some people in Russia and [is] working to keep our service safe and accessible," the company posted on its support account.

Russia appears poised to also ban TikTok soon. Roskomnadzor said on Friday it sent a letter to the administrator of TikTok "demanding to explain the reasons for deleting news stories published on the official account of the Russian news agency RIA Novosti."

Roskomnadzor said there were seven cases of "discrimination" against official accounts of Russian media and public figures on TikTok. It added the social network had violated "the key principles of the free distribution of information and unhindered access to it" when deleting the stories from the Russian news agency's account.

The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that Russia's government is "throttling Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram platforms that tens of millions of Russia's citizens rely on to access independent information and opinions." The department added that Russians also use these platforms to connect with each other and the outside world, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, social media sites have begun restricting Russian information from their platforms. YouTube blocked Russian news channels RT and Sputnik in Europe, with TikTok announcing Monday it would be doing the same. Microsoft said it would stop showing ads and content from RT and Sputnik and remove the RT app from the Windows store.

Earlier Friday, the Russian parliament passed new legislation tackling the spread of "fake news" about the country's military forces, which is now punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Shortly after the bill was passed, the BBC announced it would temporarily stop its journalists from working in Russia.

"The safety of our staff is paramount and we are not prepared to expose them to the risk of criminal prosecution simply for doing their jobs," BBC Director-General Tim Davie said in a statement.

Update 03/04/22, 3:20 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with more background and information.

Russia Blocks Facebook
People in Russia can no longer access Facebook or Twitter after the government blocked access to the platforms. Chesnot/Getty Images