Russia Blocks Facebook, as Kremlin Moves to Stifle Dissent

Facebook became the first American tech giant to be blocked by the Russian government on Friday, as part of tightening the Kremlin’s control over the Internet and limiting space for disagreements over the war in Ukraine.

The move could precede further sanctions against other tech companies, such as Google, which owns YouTube and Twitter. Both are also under pressure from the Russian government.

Russia’s Internet regulator Roskomnadzor said in a statement that Facebook would be blocked for 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media. He also cited Facebook’s move to ban Russian media outlets, including Zvezda, RIA Novosti, Sputnik, Russia Today, Lenta.ru and Gazeta.ru.

Instagram and WhatsApp, which also owns Facebook’s parent company Meta, are unaffected, the company said. Both are more popular in Russia than Facebook’s flagship Blue app.

The move comes as Russian President Vladimir V. It is part of Putin’s crackdown on dissent over the war in Ukraine. On Friday, the government passed a law making it illegal to spread so-called “false information” about Russia’s armed forces, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. The law will come into force as soon as Saturday, and can make it a criminal offense to simply call a war a “war” – the Kremlin says it is a “special military operation” – on social media or in a news article or broadcast. Many of the remaining independent news outlets in Russia have closed in anticipation of the law.

In a statement, Matt’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said Russia’s blocking of the social network would hurt the country’s citizens.

“Soon, millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves far from reliable information, deprived of their daily ways of connecting with family and friends, and will remain silent,” he said, adding that Meta would work to restore Facebook’s services in the country.

Later on Friday, Facebook announced that it would suspend the ability of its advertising systems to target users in Russia. The company said that even advertisers in Russia will no longer be able to create or run Facebook ads anywhere in the world, including within the country.

Russia has built a huge censorship infrastructure in recent years that allows it to block or slow down access to certain websites. He has used the system to slow down access to Twitter. In the past, authorities have also ordered Internet service providers across Russia to enforce its rulings.

Facebook has no employees in Russia and is not very popular with the general public. But it is also a place where people can criticize the government and get information outside state-run media outlets.

YouTube will also be a big target for the Russian government, which is very popular in the country as a source of entertainment and news. Many analysts have questioned whether Mr. Putin will go through with YouTube’s ban because it would be politically unpopular. With Facebook, at least, the count seems to have changed.

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