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Russia Blocks Big Tech Keystones Twitter, Facebook Amid Escalating Information War

Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: March 5, 2022
Russia has banned Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube amid an escalating information war over the invasion of Ukraine.
A woman uses her mobile phone at Ploschad Revolyutsii metro station in Moscow on March 10, 2021. Russia has respond to a wave of global cancel culture and censorship by multinational corporations, countries, and Big Tech by banning Twitter and Facebook from the country. (Image: DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)

The Russian Federation has blocked multiple cornerstones of the Big Tech cartel, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, amid an escalating information and censorship war arising from the battle for Ukraine.

News of the ban on Facebook and Twitter broke March 4 when Roskomnadzor, Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, made the announcement.

According to the Washington Examiner, YouTube was also no longer available in Russia the same day.

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Financial Times quoted the governmental body as stating, “Since October 2020, there have been 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media and information resources by Facebook” as justification for the ban.

The outlet said that both Instagram and WhatsApp, also products of parent company Meta, have remained active.

Meta President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, characterized the ban in a same-day tweet as unfortunate because “millions of ordinary Russians will soon find themselves cut off” from what he referred to as “reliable information.”

Since President Vladimir Putin announced Russia would undertake a special military operation in Ukraine to overthrow the ruling Zelensky regime, the country has been subject to an unprecedented wave of cancel culture from multinational corporations, nations, banking institutions, and Big Tech itself.

Washington Examiner said Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov had directly “asked YouTube to block the Russian propaganda media, which call us Nazis and drug addicts, lie and promote war. Asked Meta to block Facebook and Instagram. I asked Netflix to block the service in Russia,” according to a Feb. 26 Facebook post in Cryillic. 

Russia’s response comes on the back of a move by Meta, who made the decision to algorithmically depreciate the visibility of content published by Russian state media accounts in addition to banning the outlets from earning revenue or advertising on Facebook and Instagram, according to Forbes.

Twitter chose to label Russian-affiliated accounts and posts with editorial labels, as often was done during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in an attempt to marginalize and contextualize content that went against the pro-vaccine, pro-lockdown, and pro-masking narrative, while also banning ads in Ukraine and Russia.

Messaging app Telegram blocked the official Russia Today and Sputnik News accounts from its platform in response to pressure from the European Union, which characterized the platform’s allowance of Russian voices “as a means of war propaganda.”

A commissioner for the European Union told Politico, “We will not rest until everyone – including messenger services — take their responsibility in countering the Kremlin’s war propaganda.”

Microsoft, likewise, “suspend[ed] all new sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia,” said CEO Brad Smith in a March 4 blog post

Smith said his company was effectively serving as a form of international soft power when he said Microsoft is “coordinating closely and working in lockstep with the governments of the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom.”

“We believe we are most effective in aiding Ukraine when we take concrete steps in coordination with the decisions being made by these governments and we will take additional steps as this situation continues to evolve,” he added.

Smith also claimed that the company was working to prevent Russian hackers from compromising Ukraine government and financial sector financial assets.

According to Engadget, Bing would continue to display content from RT and Sputnik, “However, Microsoft is ‘further de-ranking’ their search results to make sure the links only appear when someone clearly intends to visit those sites.”

On March 1, Google-alternative search engine DuckDuckGo announced it was pausing its partnership with Russia’s Yandex during a congressional hearing. 

On March 3, Yandex told shareholders it was at risk of defaulting after Nasdaq and the NYSE suspended all listings of Russian-based companies.