One week after Instagram was banned in Russia and two weeks since Facebook was blocked, a Russian court officially ruled on Monday that parent company Meta was guilty of "extremist" activities, Bloomberg reported.
According to Bloomberg, WhatsApp will remain unaffected by the ruling and will continue to function in Russia. Meta did not respond to immediate requests for comment.
Russian prosecutors charged Meta with extremism after the company temporarily changed its hate speech policy to allow Facebook and Instagram users to call for violence against Russian soldiers in the context of the war in Ukraine. Russia also warned Google to reign in threats against Russians on YouTube last week.
Meta had attempted to get the charges dismissed, arguing that Russia did not have a say over the company’s actions because it is registered in the United States and does not have a presence in Russia. The court denied the request.
The Russian government has been tussling with platforms like Facebook and Instagram (and others) since first invading Ukraine, as the country attempts to spread misinformation about the war among its citizens. Meta, in some respects, has become representative of the battle, with Facebook, on March 4, becoming one of the first western media sites — news or otherwise — to be banned in context of the Ukraine war. Russia said it was banning the platform because Facebook had removed Russian state media accounts.
On March 7, Putin signed into law a measure which restricted anyone from publishing narratives counter to Russian propaganda. Since, hundreds of journalists and news organizations have left or ceased operation in the country. Twitter and TikTok have both been restricted, and Russia has threatened to block YouTube.
Meta received a warning that it was in violation of this law before Russia banned Instagram in the country. Prosecutors then charged Meta with extremism under this law, before finding the company guilty this morning.
This story was updated on March 21, 2022 with clarification about Russia's ruling against Meta.