According to Russian news agencies Interfax and TASS, Russian officials have urged for the banning of Instagram and the designation of its parent company, Meta, as a “extremist organization.”
Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has submitted a petition “to identify Meta Platforms Inc. as an extremist group and prohibit its operations on Russian Federation territory,” according to Interfax.
Separately, according to TASS, Alexander Khinshtein, the head of the Duma’s Committee on Information Policy, has demanded that Instagram be blocked if accusations that Meta changed its moderation standards to enable users to urge for violence against Russian military are accurate. Roskomnadzor, the Russian national communications regulator, also published a statement, urging Meta to “check or disprove” the accusations “as quickly as possible.”
“If Meta verifies this truth or refuses to respond,” Khinshtein told TASS, “it will be a justification for Roscomnadzor [sic] and other colleagues to take the hardest steps.” “In this scenario, I believe Instagram’s work in Russia should be prohibited, similar to what occurred with Facebook.”
Reuters was the first to disclose the policy changes in question, and Meta has now verified them. Internal emails obtained by Reuters were sent to Facebook and Instagram moderators, instructing them to “allow T1 violent speech that would otherwise be removed under the Hate Speech policy when: (a) targeting Russian soldiers, EXCEPT prisoners of war, or (b) targeting Russians where the context is clear that the context is the Russian invasion of Ukraine (e.g., content mentions the invasion, self-defense, etc.).”
According to The New York Times, the modifications affect users in Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.
Andy Stone, a representative for Meta, acknowledged to The Verge that the company’s standards against violent speech had changed. “As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we’ve temporarily established exceptions for types of political expression that would typically be prohibited, such as aggressive rhetoric like ‘death to the Russian invaders,'” Stone explained. “Credible appeals for violence against Russian people will continue to be rejected.”
Despite the fact that Facebook has already been blocked in Russia, Instagram has remained unaffected.