Russia blocks Twitter and Facebook access

The Kremlin prevented access to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms on Friday amid a crackdown against demonstrators and independent media outlets .

05 March 2022 Saturday 11:07
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Russia blocks Twitter and Facebook access

Roskomnadzor (Russian telecommunications regulator) stated that Facebook's decision to block it was in response to its alleged discrimination against Russian media. It cited 26 cases from October 2020.

Nick Clegg is the president of global affairs at Meta, Facebook's parent company. He stated in a Twitter statement that "Soon, millions, ordinary Russians, will be cut off from reliable info, deprived from their everyday ways to connect with family and friends, and silenced from speaking up." We will do all we can to ensure that our services are available for people to safely and securely communicate their opinions and take action.

Meta issued a second statement Friday evening announcing that Russian advertisers would be blocked from Facebook. "Despite the Russian government's decision to block Facebook, we are trying to maintain our services as much as possible. Due to Russia's difficulties at the moment, advertisers targeting Russia will be stopped and they will not be able create or run ads anywhere else in the world.

Mykhailo Fedorov (Ukraine's Minister for Digital Transformation) confirmed the Twitter ban via a Telegram message and compared the move to something from a George Orwell novel.

Twitter spokesperson told CBS News that the company was aware of reports about a ban but does not see anything "significantly" different from the shared content.

This was in response to Russia's Thursday move to block access to many foreign news websites including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Deutsche Welle.

According to research and security firm Top VPN, more than 5,000 websites have been added to the Kremlin's "denylist" since the Russian invasion began in Ukraine. Although some websites are banned because of routine regulation, access to more than 80 news outlets as well as 30 financial sites has been denied since February 24th.

Simon Migliano is the head of research at Top 10 VPN. He told CBS News that Russia recently has been focused on closing down Russian-language news. Migliano said that there was a major push right after the invasion.

"It feels absolutely coordinated and strategic, going after the major news sites in Ukraine first. They're now expanding to large foreign news sites that have a large Russian following and are closely following the invasion.

As the ruble fell in value, Russia started blocking financial websites on Monday. These bans apply to crypto and foreign exchange platforms, which would allow Russians trade money to other currencies.

Roskomnadzor described the official Facebook ban as a "partial" blocking. This followed several days of Russian government throttling social media access. This throttling, or intentional slowing down internet speed, was caused by Meta's refusal not to stop independent fact-checking Russian state-backed media.

Users complained that the internet speed was so slow when they entered sites via Russian IP addresses, even though there had been no official ban.

After receiving requests from E.U., Facebook and Instagram closed access to Russian state media in the European Union on Monday. This was requested by several governments. Twitter announced two days later that it would impose similar regulations across Europe in response to the EU's announcement regarding sanctions against state-backed media like RT and Sputnik.

Twitter stated at the time that its "global approach beyond the E.U." It would be focusing on labeling state-affiliated media content to de-amplify. Katie Rosborough, spokesperson for Twitter, stated that they will continue to advocate for an open and free internet in times of crisis.

According to Netblocks data, the Kremlin began to throttle Twitter last week.

Alp Toker, the founder and director of Netblocks, stated to CBS News that throttling was a deliberate tool of Russian information warfare used routinely by the Russians in order to increase uncertainty.

Toker stated that "the only motivator for throttling an platform to such an extent is to create confusion and ambiguity around the restriction itself," adding that the slow service gives the Russian government plausible deniability.

When a website is slow to load, the first reaction is to blame the internet connection. Not the government. This is where misinformation thrives in its own right.

Migliano stated that he was surprised that the Kremlin didn't block more websites, including English-language webpages.

According to Top 10 VPN, the demand for VPNs is almost 700% greater than before the invasion.

Toker stated, "I believe there will increasingly be the question of how you get to people." "We've observed a rapid closing in the online space over the last few days. It's looking like there may be a new Iran or China when connectivity is concerned.


 

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