Russia Blocks Facebook As Putin’s War on Ukraine Intensifies, Considers Blocking Twitter

In another interesting twist, Russia has reportedly blocked Facebook. Twitter is also being considered for blocking as well.

Yesterday, we reported on Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal halting services in Russia. It is interesting, though, that large companies and western countries aren’t the only ones doing blocking these days. Russia has reportedly blocked Facebook in the country.

Now, this development is a bit of an eyebrow raiser. This is because Russia has been involved in massive botnet campaigns to radicalize right wing politics in multiple countries for years now. These campaigns of fake support have led to Russian friendly outcomes such as Trump getting elected, Brexit being successful, Fox “News” being increasingly successful, conspiracy theories about vaccines, and “trucker” convoys getting more reach than they would otherwise might normally have gotten. All of the above, of course, serve to help undermine western democracies.

So, cutting off the flow of disinformation and lies on one of the biggest platforms that have largely turned a blind eye to seems somewhat counter-intuitive from Putin’s perspective. Yet, here we are with Russia banning Facebook in their country. From Reuters:

Russia said it would block Facebook for excluding state media and CNN said it would stop broadcasting in Russia after a new law punishing “fake news” raised the stakes in Moscow’s fight with foreign corporation.

Russia said that Meta Platforms Inc’s (FB.O) Facebook was being blocked for restricting state-backed channels, and it also blocked websites of the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America for what it said was false information about the war in Ukraine. […] Twitter (TWTR.N) will also be blocked, Russian media said.

Anecdotal evidence from observers of Facebook suggests that, since the blocking of Facebook, far right sites and conspiracy theories have struggled to maintain a foothold on the platform. Fox News and other right wing entertainment broadcasters have also been seen taking hits in overall popularity as well with left leaning movements suddenly moving up in the ranks of engagement.

Facebook, for its part, seems rather upset at this development. A decline in this corrosive engagement is a decline in engagement for them it seems. So, they have expressed disapproval for the move. From the BBC:

Facebook’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said that “soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information”.

Facebook had previously been limited in the country, along with platforms including Twitter.

Facebook’s share value has dropped since the 4th when this news began circulating, though it is unclear if some of that drop was due to Russia’s move to ban the company.

The move is sparking some observers to wonder if this is part of a much larger plan to completely disconnect Russian citizens from the rest of the Internet. This in an effort to try and control the narrative within the Russian borders – especially in the context of Putin’s war on Ukraine. It’s also unclear if the move to block Facebook and eventual blocking of Twitter will improve the overall user experience on both of those platforms.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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