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Russia restricts Instagram after its parent Meta allows violent threats against military for Ukraine invasion – CNBC

Meta logo displayed on a phone screen and Russian flag displayed on a screen in the background are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on March 1, 2022.

Jakub Porzycki | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Russia’s technology regulatory agency on Friday restricted access to Instagram after parent company Meta Platforms began allowing users in some countries to call for violence against Russia’s president and military. 

Russia earlier Friday opened a criminal case against Meta and sought to have it declared an extremist organization because of the temporary change in its hate speech policy to permit threats on Instagram and Facebook in the context of Russia’s Ukraine invasion.

Roskomnadzor, the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications, said the limitations on access to Instagram will be limited “based on the order of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation.”

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“As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” a Meta spokesperson told Reuters in a statement.

CNBC reported Thursday that the use of virtual private networks, which can allow users to circumvent government restrictions to certain sites and apps, is surging in Russia.

Since Feb. 24, there has been a 1,500% increase in the number of downloads of the top 10 VPN apps in Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store in Russia compared with the prior 13-day period, according to data from SensorTower compiled for CNBC.

Twitter on Thursday took down two tweets by Russia’s embassy in the United Kingdom for what the company called “the denial of violent events” in the attack on Ukraine. 

In one deleted tweet, Russia’s embassy claimed a pregnant woman seen in a photo of casualties at a children’s hospital in the port city of Mariupol that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike was really a Ukraine “beauty blogger,” suggesting that the photo was staged propaganda.

At least one child and two adults were killed at the hospital, and an additional 17 were injured, Ukraine officials have said.

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