Russia has officially blocked Facebook and restricted Twitter.  That is a bad sign for global democracy.

Russia has officially blocked Facebook and restricted Twitter. That is a bad sign for global democracy.

After a week of threats and radiithe russian government has officially blocked Facebook and continues to restrict Twitter from tens of millions of users in the country who use those apps on a daily basis.

The move comes at a time when the Russian government is not surprised by the intensified crackdown on the free press and other sources of information to control the narrative of its invasion of Ukraine (which the Russian media must not call war, but “special military operations”). In the past few weeks, there are several remaining independent local news outlets in Russia that are not affiliated with the state are closedRussian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that threatens to 15 years in prison for Russians who publish “fake news” about the invasion, and the government has already done so arrested thousands of anti-war protesters.

Now Facebook and Twitter – used by Russians to express dissent and share independent news of the brutality of the war – are Putin’s latest target of a showdown with the media. While Facebook and Twitter have complicated results and are sometimes used by bad actors (even the Russian government itself) yes hinder democracyPutin’s shutdown of these applications will undoubtedly have a frightening effect on political speech in Russia.

Russians can still find other news sources, watch YouTube and communicate via apps like Telegram – one of the most popular social media apps in Russia – but the government is stifling the discussion of two main platforms where it is easy to broadcast to a large audience and where people in Russia can share content with the rest of the world. It is unclear whether the government blockade will be extended to other applications owned by Facebook’s parent company Meta, such as WhatsApp and Instagram.

“Censorship is too modest a word right now for what they do,” said UC Irvine law professor and former UN special rapporteur on freedom of speech David Kaye.

Meanwhile, Russia’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, has accused Facebook that I am the one who censors, saying ua published statement on Friday that the social media company deals with “discrimination of Russian media and information resources”. Last week, Facebook began to verify the facts, which it says are misleading claims published by Russia Today (RT) and other state media in Russia, and blocked RT in Europe and the UK.

Facebook President for Global Affairs Nick Clegg said earlier that the Russian government was trying to prevent Facebook from conducting its independent fact-checking efforts, and on Friday published a statement on his Twitter account in response to the Kremlin’s Facebook shutdown.

“Soon, millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of everyday ways of connecting with family and friends, and silenced by speech,” Clegg wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to do everything we can to renew our services so that they remain available to people to express themselves safely and securely and organize for action.”

Twitter has previously said its services are limited in Russia, but not completely blocked. “We are aware that Twitter is limited to some people in Russia and we are working to make our service secure and accessible,” the Twitter company said. the account tweeted February 26.

Although many political experts believe that these clashes will help the Russian government tighten its grip, in a turn that is surprising to some, Ukrainian government leaders have recently called Facebook and Twitter are cutting off access to their apps in Russia. This is because the Ukrainian government saw it as a kind of “sanction” against the Russian government, in the hope that this action would encourage the Russians to put pressure on the government to act differently.

“There is this strange irony in the fact that Ukraine required companies to take steps to be unavailable in Russia, and now Russia has done it for them. And I think that’s a bad outcome, “Kay said. He added that he understands Ukraine’s concern that social media platforms are being used to spread pro-Russian propaganda and the desire to punish its government.

Social media platforms – especially Facebook – have been criticized for being places anti-democratic and even genocidal movements can flourish, fueled by unverified misinformation and calls for violence that social media companies have failed to adequately mitigate. But it is complicated. These platforms are also significant means of freedom of expression, especially in places like Russia where there are limited independent media and social media fills the gaps created by state filters. Although the release of Facebook and Twitter will not stop the political disagreement in Russia overnight (for now, Russians can still use other applications, such as Telegram, for communication) – it seems that this is just the beginning of Putin’s showdown. It is also likely to inspire other authoritarian regimes that are considering similar moves.

Even when social media platforms are blocked in a country, there are always solutions to avoid restrictions, such as the use of virtual private networks or VPNs. But it can make organizing inaccessible to many who do not have the financial or technical skills or political inclination to do so.

“Ordinary Russians are in a hurry to install VPN, but that is true only for the liberal part of society – the rest are left in the dark,” said Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, a senior associate at the Center for European Policy Analysis. “Global platforms should do whatever it takes to stay available.”

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