- Russia's media regulator said Friday it will block access to Meta-owned Facebook in the country as it escalates pressure on media outlets and tech platforms amid its invasion of Ukraine.
- Last week, the agency placed partial restrictions on Facebook for the alleged violation of federal law.
- Facebook previously said it refused to comply with Russia's request to stop labeling or fact-checking state-affiliated media.
The regulator said Facebook violated federal law by restricting access to accounts of several state-affiliated media outlets, according to a translated version of a statement. The move marks an escalation from earlier limits Russia placed on Facebook.
Last week, the agency placed partial restrictions on Facebook for the alleged violation.
At the time, Meta's vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said Russian authorities had ordered the platform to stop fact-checking and labeling content posted on Facebook by state-owned outlets like RT and Sputnik. Meta refused the request, he said.
The regulator said Friday it's found 26 "cases of discrimination against Russian media and information resources by Facebook" since October 2020.
"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," Clegg said in a statement on Twitter in response to Friday's blocking. "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."
Russia has escalated its crackdown on both traditional and social media as its war with Ukraine continues. Some companies like Twitter and Google have committed to labeling state-owned media and suspending advertising in Russia. Meanwhile, a new law that would allow Russian authorities to jail anyone who spreads "fake" news about its military drove the BBC to suspend the work of its journalists in the country.
An independent service, GlobalCheck, appeared to show as of Friday afternoon that Twitter was unavailable on Russian ISPs. The Russian media regulator's site did not yet show any new actions against Twitter.
A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement the company is aware of reports that its service was restricted for some in Russia, "but we don't currently see anything significantly different from what we previously shared that would point to a block." They pointed to a Feb. 26 tweet, where the company said it's "aware that Twitter is being restricted for some people in Russia and are working to keep our service safe and accessible."