Sun. May 15th, 2022

Russians have two days to claim their data before ban over Meta’s new “hate speech” policy goes into effect

Citing the “unprecedented” decision by Instagram’s parent company Meta to allow calls for violence against Russians, the country’s media regulator announced that the photo and video-sharing platform will be blocked in the country starting March 14.

“Messages are circulating on the Instagram social network encouraging and provoking violent acts against Russians,” Roskomnadzor said on Friday, adding that the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has requested that access to the platform be restricted.

The restrictions will go into effect at the end of the day on Sunday, giving Russian users “an additional 48 hours” to retrieve their photos and videos from Instagram, migrate to other social networks and notify their contacts and subscribers, Roskomnadzor added.

Moscow has already blocked access to Meta’s flagship platform Facebook since last week, citing the Silicon Valley giant’s decision to restrict Russian media such as RT and Sputnik. WhatsApp, another Meta product, is widely used in the country. According to reports in Russian media, WhatsApp won’t go offline for Russians, as it is primarily used as a means of communication.

While considering a proposal to label Meta an “extremist organization,” the Russian authorities said on Friday they do not intend to go after their citizens who use workarounds such as VPNs “in good faith” to access the company’s products.

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Citing internal emails, Reuters reported on Thursday that Meta would be relaxing its “hate speech” rules to allow calls for violence against Russian troops in Ukraine or wishing death upon President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. The rules were supposed to be in effect only in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine. 

Meta’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg, a former British politician, sought to clarify the policy on Friday, calling it “a temporary decision taken in extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances” and saying it would only apply in Ukraine.

“I want to be crystal clear: our policies are focused on protecting people’s rights to speech as an expression of self-defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country,” Clegg said in a statement. “The fact is, if we applied our standard content policies without any adjustments we would now be removing content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces, which would rightly be viewed as unacceptable.” 

Meta has “no quarrel with the Russian people. There is no change at all in our policies on hate speech as far as the Russian people are concerned. We will not tolerate Russophobia or any kind of discrimination, harassment or violence towards Russians on our platform,” Clegg added.